Thanks for your thoughtful and insightful article. It's a little sad to see the demise of so many "intitutions" of the imaging industry at such an exciting time in its evolutionary progress. I guess that's been going on in most industries as society and technology advances.
I applaud the apparent efforts of camera manufacturers to recently focus on "better" rather than just "more" pixels in their products. Having said this, I am slightly disappointed with the meagre upgrade of the 20D while appreciating the new features introduced. I guess I am exactly that consumer you referred to who expects revolutionary changes in camera specs every 18 months or so.
While you mention that the race for more megapixels is plateauing out, I read with interest a posting
on DP Review last December that mentioned a 'revolutionally new chip". This CMOS sensor apparenly uses less power, gives a significant increase in dynamic range, and uses fewer transistors per pixel. My (probably incorrect) extrapoltion of the last point is that, as the area per pixel that is involved in gathering light is increasing (in proportion to the pixel size), pixel sizes will decrease as transistor sizes reduce while maintaining the same light-gathering characteristics. Surely this will lead to greater pixel densities with similar noise characteristics. With reduced power consumption, heat generation may also be reduced (again, maybe an unfounded deduction), reducing dark-field noise.
I don't have your wealth of experience at watching evolving technologies mature, and these new chips may be a decade or more away from being used in production cameras. I do, however, hope that chips with reduced power, higher dynamic range, smaller size, lower noise and (as in the article) faster processing are not too far away.
While I love the tools I currently use (5D & 20D, RZ67) I look forward to all advances in this exciting field. I just hope lens technology keeps pace.