Originally Posted by Dogman
In the 1950's, the average family camera was a Kodak Brownie. It was good enough and easy to carry around for those special occasions that required pictures. Serious photographers were using expensive 35mm and rollfilm cameras the average family wouldn't consider using.
When digital cameras came along, the average family camera was a digital point 'n shoot. They were good enough and easy to carry around plus no one had to pay the drugstore guy for printing the pictures. And they could email the relatives pictures of the new baby or the recent vacation. Serious photographers were using expensive DSLRs and other esoteric cameras the average family wouldn't consider using.
Now that digital photography has been around a while, the average family camera is their smart phone. It's good enough, it's always there and it's easier do the things with it they like to do, like send pictures of their breakfast to Instagram. Serious photographers are using expensive and advanced digital cameras the average family wouldn't consider using.
Full circle. What goes around comes around. Is anyone surprised...really?
I'd mostly agree with this; for the consumers, not much has changed, even compact RFs gave way to bridge cameras, which gave way to cheap DSLRs, which gave way to entry-level mirrorless. (which, if I remember correctly, were predicted to be the death of Canon and Nikon with their pretty weak 1 and EOS-M offerings). We as 'serious' photographers long for the days of brick-like SLRs but forget the majority of cameras made have always been cheap Kodaks, Arguses (Argi?) and the like. Theres a similar amnesia in the bike industry..
Anecdotally (and I know OP hates anecdotes), I'm both pleased and surprised to see how robust the consumer market is since I worked at a retailer almost 15 years ago. Back then: Minolta was on its last legs, Olympus was floundering with Four Thirds, and Pentax had some pretty weak offerings in small format. To be fair, everyone seemingly was playing catchup with Nikon and Canon since AF came around. Now, my local shop has hugely expanded floor area, Sony's built up into one of the most popular brands, and Olympus has a sizable stable of respectable cameras.
But as Mr. Striker has noted, the bottom falling out of P&S and money moving to mobile phone manufacturers does leave a big hole in revenue of actual camera manufacturers. I don't really know how that will work out in the future. I really don't see the industry as a whole dying off solely because of smartphones, but perhaps wildly reorganizing. Then again, most of these companies are diversified in some way: Sony with seemingly every electronic gadget, Canon with office imaging, Nikon and Olympus in medical imaging, etc etc.
I may not be that old, but I've been in the photo community long enough to have seen plenty of predictions of doom: film is dead, point-and-shoots are dead, SLRs are dead, standalone cameras are dead (with smartphones/Lytro), and similar parallels in the video industry. Yet here we are with Nikon still plugging away with the F6 and a handful of Coolpix models, and so on.
What I do see, or at least hope to see, as someone alluded to, is a winnowing of models and a smaller production cycle. On a related note, every so often I go waste time on Camerapedia and look at the awful SLRs that came out in the 90s-00s and scores of P&S cameras pumped out with little variation between them. I'd hope that era might finally go away.