Micheal's idea for Sony is probably close to something they'll pursue. It won't help the camera industry one bit. It might sell a few more Sony cameras than Nikon D810s.
Since I was mentioned earlier in this thread and dismissed, I would like to point out that my point has been and continues to be that cameras have not progressed with the high tech progression. And I think my track record in Silicon Valley shows that I was always just ahead of the curve, not behind it or deviating from it. I'll stand by my ability to analyze tech. After all, my PhD work was in New Technology and Management. If I can't understand where tech is and where it is going, than I failed in my academic endeavors.
The camera makers treat new cameras much like a computer maker treated computers in the 90's: just add the latest CPU from Intel and a feature or two and call it new. At the point where clock speeds didn't really make much difference to what the user was doing, sales stalled. A few makers rethought the product and modernized it with new capabilities that better matched the other things that a consumer/business might be using. That is NOT really happening in the camera business. When it does happen--WiFi for instance--it happens with inadequate and limited capabilities and terrible software implementations. Why all cameras can't pull GPS data from my phone, why we're still restricted to 8.3 filenames where all the characters are reserved, why motion sensors haven't really been used for anything other than moving lens elements or image sensors (and with poor discrimination, which is one reason why we keep seeing bad results in a specific shutter speed range), why cameras don't detect temperature and adjust noise reduction, and a host of other things that are happening elsewhere in tech, I don't know. I can only think of two reasons: inability to recognize new opportunities, or laziness.
Over time, all hardware products become software devices. If there's anything I learned in my decades in Silicon Valley, this is key. If you've paid attention to what's happened to your car, it's true there, too. Detroit has done a better job of running with the trends in tech than camera makers, and that's an indictment of the camera makers, not an endorsement of the auto makers.
As for the suggestions made by ErikKaffehr, here's my reaction:
1) New markets. Many places in the world have expanding economies. China and India are prime examples. These markets are less saturated than the traditional ones, I would assume.
New markets have a habit of skipping over old technologies in tech. A good example is cellular and solar in Africa. Easier to put up cell towers and use solar panels than it is to wire huge parts of the world that don't already have them. What's happening in most of the emerging markets is that the smartphone is replacing other things very rapidly. In order to fully take advantage of a DSLR, you'd need a computer. What if you skip having a computer? ;~)
The camera companies have been chirping about how emerging economies would be the new growth for quite some time now. Then in their financials they put statements like "China's sluggish economy meant that we didn't get the growth we expected." But what's really happening is that the person you'd want to sell a US$500 camera to in China isn't buying one, they're using their smartphone.
2) Moving upscale. Canon have been quite smart on improving their lens programme and eventually introduce a new camera that actually makes use of those lenses.
This is another of the camera company mantras: when business gets tough we go upscale in order to get more dollars from fewer people. This is EXACTLY what's happening right now, and it isn't stopping the trend. Indeed, it has the potential for worsening the decline in camera sales and creating just a small, high-end niche market. This is the same tactic the HiFi companies took, and look where that got them against CDs and eventually MP3s.
You must embrace what's actually happening with all your potential customers, not try to micromanage a few of the existing ones.
3) Increase margins. Lower production costs and sell higher priced products. Sony is good at this, the cameras are very simple as they remove many moving parts. Calibration and adjustment gets much easier if you move AF to sensor, remove a flipping mirror and a folding mirror on the backside of that mirror and an AF device. Just two things in order to keep things aligned sensor and lens.
This, too is already happening. Even in DSLRs. Just disassemble a D5500 versus a D5000, for example. But it doesn't actually relate to the problem at hand: how do we sell more cameras? Demand for cameras is down (soft), thus prices for cameras will go down (soften). All cost management does is try to retain or increase margin as prices go down. But the problem isn't that prices are going down. That's a symptom. The problem is that demand for cameras is going down. Way down. Precipitously down. This means that there is something fundamentally wrong with the product definition as it is currently being practiced.
4) Connectivity. A camera with built in cell phone is not a bad idea.
Connectivity good, cell phone not so good. We don't need to duplicate a smartphone inside a camera. The Nikon and Samsung experiments in Android cameras have pretty much proven that. A camera needs to be a camera. But it absolutely needs to today connect to your other things. And it needs intelligent software inside when it makes that connection.
Technically, cameras are way behind the times. The reason why I don't want it to be a smartphone is that my smartphone is better at so many things than the camera is. Take post processing, for instance. On the back of our cameras we have basically a VGA monitor. On my smartphone I have an HD monitor. Far better. So if I'm going to change anything about the image I shot, I'd rather do it on the smartphone than the camera. Even better would be to use my tablet or laptop. But look at what Nikon's doing: their mobile app for iOS and Android limits the size of what's brought over to the phone or tablet and has no way of talking to my laptop. Dumb. Stupid dumb. It's done this way because of costs and time, in all sorts of ways. But that just solves Nikon problems, not user problems. If you don't solve the user problems, Nikon will have MORE problems ;~).
Heck, we still have USB 2.0 stuck into most cameras. And even the USB 3.0 in the D810 seems to be bandwidth limited. Thus, we still need card readers to transfer files fast. Sneaker net for the 21st Century.
Since this is the rantatorial forum, let me rant: the camera makers are headed to near extinction with their present course. Yes, Fujifilm and Sony are doing some nice things. Doesn't matter if you only sell a few hundred thousand of them a year.
Michael had one thing dead on that should send shivers down the spines--what remains of them--of the camera companies: each year fewer cameras are being sold, but each year far more images are being taken. That's the Kodak problem, all over again (each year fewer rolls of film were being sold, but each year far more images were being taken). The results, if you ignore addressing the problem directly, will be the same for the camera companies as they were for Kodak.
People think I started writing about all this to get hits on my Web site, to massage my ego, or some other silly thing. No. I started writing about the coming problem last decade because I don't want to see the business that I am part of die off. I wanted to elevate the discussion of what cameras in the future needed to look like. I even went to a couple of camera companies in Japan at my own expense and showed executives there what the world was going to look like and how they should change their product to live in it. I don't want to see Nikon (or Canon, Fujifilm, Olympus, Sony, et.al.) fail. But that's where they're headed with current practices. That should bother all of us who use cameras. The industry that produces our key tools is now short-sighted and in trouble. That industry is not finding new customers; it's mostly living off those of us incrementally updating our gear. That means that ILC sales will plummet more than 50% more in the coming few years down to something in the 4-6m unit a year range. At some point, it is no longer a "consumer business."