Niche websites that answer queries with answers that are easily automated are in deep, deep trouble. Google has obviously recognized that an opportunity exists to keep all of this traffic for themselves and save users a click or two in the process. Remember the days of clicking on a Google result to convert currencies or times, see the weather, find medical info, or get the lyrics to a song? Those queries now yield results directly from Google above the fold and above web results.
This signals the end for many websites that will see their traffic dry up. These same sites are often serving up Google ads via AdSense, but Google must have concluded that cutting those publishers out of the action was worth it. These new changes do seem consistent with their mission, "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.", and as a user I am happy to not have to visit unknown domains to get the information I want.
This should lead to a more efficient web experience, but also to a less diverse one. It will be interesting to see how far Google can take this strategy without making users uncomfortable or fomenting rebellion among its AdSense publishers.
In the attached image Google's result is in blue, takes up more than half of the above-the-fold" screen real estate, and links to another Google property for more information. The red arrows indicate sites that are now redundant.