Google is working on a new tab page which will include elements from the Google homepage
The Chrome new tab page is getting an update, nobody is quite sure what that is going to be though. Google has been experimenting with several layouts and designs and keeps on experimenting.The latest versions may look a bit more thought out, but that's no guarantee that they're in any way final.
That said, the main goal seems to be to be able to include the Google homepage, in a way, in the new tab page. That means including the big search box, replacing the Chrome OmniBox in the process, as well as the Google logo and the occasional doodle.
The motivation is obvious, more and more people start searches from the address box of their browser and not from the Google homepage, so they miss out on doodles or the rare ads and announcements Google makes there.
Google can't do anything about other browsers, but that's why it built Chrome, and it wants the homepage to be included in the new tab page, whatever it takes.
The latest iteration brought back the apps section, though, overall, it still looks like a regression on usability.
To check it out for yourself, grab the latest Chromium or Chrome dev builds and switch on the "Enable Instant extended API" flag.