Back in October, Google began testing the fade in home page and they tried several variations over the course of the time. Google has finally decided to go ahead with this look and feature for simplistically purposes.
The Google blog announced it last night. They admitted some of those tests were failures and they even admitted they were worried making this the default look. Here is how Marissa phrased it:
Here is a picture of the fade in choice selected:
So they kept the search buttons there right away. But many still hate it, I have at least five recent threads with lots of complaints about this new look. I'll link to them below.