The Verge’s Casey Newton has a good look at the new Google+ features:
Enter the data center. Google is betting that its powerful machine-learning algorithms will work not just to attract users to Google+, but to keep them there. And as with Instagram and Facebook before it, photographs will be central to the effort. Photographers were among the most enthusiastic early adopters of Google+, which alone among its peers displayed photos up to 2,048 pixels wide. (Last month Google began permitting full-size photos to be uploaded, though they count against the free 15GB shared-storage limit Google now has for Gmail, Drive, and Google+.) Until now, Google has worked to make Google+ the best online home for your photos. With today’s update, it wants to make your photos look better there than they do anywhere else.
There’s certainly some neat ideas here; surfacing the better shots (ones that aren’t blurry, under or over-exposed, and duplicates) is nice, for example, and if the auto-enhance isn’t overzealous, that’s convenient as well. (Some features, like combining multiple group photos together so you get one where everyone’s smiling, or automatically smoothing people’s skin to hide imperfections, might be a little less exciting.)
Google announced a lot of exciting things. Google search by voice, where Google will reply with answers instead of just search results in many cases, is coming to the desktop as well, and is continuing to get much better. Google+ is nice generally and the iOS application is quite lovely. Their new streaming music service looks pretty good. Despite that I think putting a screen in front of our eyes is a terrible idea, Google Glass is impressive work in many ways. Etc. etc. But while much of what Google is doing is nice in and of itself, there doesn’t appear to be a thread running through it all—it’s just a lot of stuff.
Google is doing incredible things and is capable of incredible things, but I think that’s their single biggest weakness: an inability to focus their work for a single thesis. I speculated in March that Larry Page was re-focusing Google; that may still be true, but this year’s Google I/O certainly doesn’t support that idea.