Regardless of it's sleek, clean or [insert buzzword] look, they are attempting to provide a better visual hierarchy for their suite of services. I just spoke to someone who complained it's more work to switch between GIS and normal search now, as they have moved the links a few millimeters, but when you consider that each of those top links is a whole application, it's very sensible.
Consider searching for some business, then clicking on Maps to find it, then clicking Gmail to send someone the location you just found. It's less jarring with the mini dashboard they've created, since there are persistent UI elements across all of their services. Before it would move a little with each one, as they use slightly different logos which change the top fold. What does bother me is that Gmail's "dashboard" links differ from the various search tools.