Upload & Sell: On
Random thoughts on this thread:
Panasonic, Sony and Olympus are/have been in financial trouble as noted and even more importantly many of their consumer electronics are not doing so hot right now globally, as they are unable to compete with mainland Chinese and Korean competitors (better on manufacturing costs), and particularly Samsung and Apple (better on global marketing and, in the case of Apple, customer support). The big Japanese companies have been behind on all these areas in the past two decades.
The still camera market is in especially big turmoil right now and it's anyone's guess what things will look like in 5 years (my guess: probably much the same with better cell phone cameras, far fewer compacts, and fewer companies/product lines. I personally doubt any company - Japanese camera or otherwise - will come up with a disruptively innovative camera and be able to market it as such, but if someone does they'll dominate the market)
Sony will probably undergo considerable restructuring, but will still exist as a consumer electronics company, and will still make still cameras of some sort. Sharp/Panasonic/Olympus are bigger questions. I don't see them ending manufacturing or being broken up (as someone mentioned that doesn't happen in big corporate Japan for better or worse), but it's not out of the question that these will consolidate with each other, with Canikon, or with someone else.
I'd also note that Canikon's sales are also threatened from the same forces, particularly at the low end of the market. Canon is buoyed by other businesses (which aren't doing so hot right now I'm told), but Nikon is particularly vulnerable as a still-cameras-only manufacturer with a decent position in a dying part of the consumer electronics world. Fortunately, Nikon's products are pretty good overall.
Finally, since I'm not a shareholder I don't really care about corporate futures - what does this means for all of us users? Impossible to say - the business environment is hard to predict, what companies will profit and what they will do is even harder to predict, and what this means for enthusiast still photography in five years is impossible to predict (Thom Hogan has done good work here).
That being said, I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't queasy about the money I've put into micro4/3 lenses, and that the resale value of the stuff might not be 1/3 of what I paid because Oly/Panny might discontinue making m4/3 cameras for whatever reason. I don't think similar risk exists with Canikon or Sony.