From a question on Quora:
Is James Whittaker right that focusing heavily on Google+ has made Google worse and broken its culture of innovation?
Focusing on Google+ has been a major shift in strategy for Google, in that now it has a focus. One of my favorite pieces on this was from Ben Horowitz, juxtaposing Schmidt and Page as peacetime vs. wartime CEOs.
What does this mean? A radical culture change:
In the Search Market, Google remains dominant, but in social networking Google must come from behind. Will Google soar or struggle under Page? That depends on how effective a wartime CEO he turns out to be. It may depend even more on whether the most characteristically peacetime company in the industry can make the cultural transition into war
Whether Google is now worse for its Google+ focus is a matter of hot debate.. While for the general consumer it may be just another product at worst, a unification of many services at best, in my opinion it has significantly broken the future potential from Google. How?
The memorandum of putting “More Wood Behind Fewer Arrows“  says it best:
we believe that greater focus is crucial if we’re to make the most of the extraordinary opportunities ahead.
Circles was probably the most overhyped feature of G+, as it was something that Facebook could simply innovate upon, and which they did through the addition of (smart)Lists. Now, how many people actually use lists? Doesn’t matter, it’s there, and it effectively one-upped Circles  (and don’t forget the Subscribe feature, which could be seen as a shot at both G+/Twitter).
Why do I bring this up?
Ultimately, Google+ is a defensive maneuver, one that has been easily one-upped by Facebook, and will continue to be in its current form. From a user perspective, Google has lost sight of its core mission, and more importantly, has lost sight of where the next innovation may lie . Even in Google Play, something as core as searching through my personal collections on the home page are omitted from the initial release, and to me that feels like a major oversight from what should be their core .
There are so many things that Google could be doing to innovate (automatic event additions to my GCal from Gmail for starters). And sometimes I wonder what the world would have been like had Google partnered with others on the social/OS front and stuck to what they do best.
Cutting Google Labs was a step to having fewer arrows, yes, but I wonder if those arrows are being aimed at the right targets.
Good competition from the likes of Apple/Facebook should inspire great innovation , and from Marco Arment’s (CEO of Instapaper) response to Readability  is one that Google needs to take heed of:
Instead, I’m taking this misstep as a wake-up call: I missed an important opportunity that’s necessary for the long-term competitiveness of my product.
Google seems to think they don’t need to change anything and Apple’s customers are brainwashed by marketing, Ballmer has shut up about Apple publicly and Microsoft is making radical changes.