Good Day Folks,
The recent event with Leica and what has happened to other camera makers in the past (for that matter) just begs the questions: Is the expertise (those people who know how to develop the hardware/firmware/software for a digital camera) in very short supply?
Where does a manufacturer get the expertise? Do they try to snaffoo them from Kodak or that other one at Kitchener/Waterloo? Perhaps they make them an "Offer They No Ca-na Refuse"?
Or does the expertise come from right out of some university?
And last but not least, why is the development so shaky at best? Is digital photography moving to fast?
I'm not at all qualified to tackle most of your questions, but I'll take a stab at the last couple: I think development is as "shaky" as it is mostly because digital camera development has shifted from being a hardware engineering problem to being a software engineering problem. Accordingly, all of the pressures that shape the software development industry are now popping up in photography. In general, the guiding principle seems to be "ship it as soon as possible and fix the bugs in the field." Companies feel a huge pressure to beat their competition to market (or hit trade show dates) whether the product is 100% ready or not. The underlying assumption seems to be that customers are more interested in paying for 95% now than paying for 100% a year from now, or that they'd rather pay X for something that mostly works than 2X for something that lives up to all of its marketing. All of this is reinforced by the notion (which manufacturers are happy to perpetuate) that digital cameras become obsolete in two years anyway, so customers will be unwilling to pay a big premium for something that's closer to perfect.
I do NOT think any of this has much to do with the level of engineering talent available. If my experience in the software industry is at all representative, there are a plenty of outstanding people out there. The current level of product quality is primarily a result of market pressures.
Personally, all of this drives me nuts . I DO NOT buy new equipment every 18 months (cameras or computers) and I AM willing to pay more for something really good (which I'll hold on to for a long time and hence get a good return on my investment). However, I seem to be a member of a tiny minority; the general consumer just doesn't behave that way, and it's their money that the vendors and their shareholders are primarily interested in.