I don't consider p&s fantastic or the cameras that update every year or on a cycle to really mean much. Those are expected. But this time period of does show something for the mid-rage cameras for sure and I do think you have touched on something.
It seems the demand on technology or maybe better put, consumers demand for better imaging technology rather than just better marketing numbers is becoming evident. Consumers are becoming better versed in what is actually good. Really for the last 4 years and even this year IQ from most has not increased much at all. Usability or the non-IQ related items still hasn't increased that much outside of the high end systems for almost 6+ years either. For the last few months something has changed. AF systems, Sensors, lenses have all increased with a big leap forward and new standards are being set.
Some camera's are have increased the standards for sure.
All of these have for IQ: Sony NEX-7, Canon G1x, Fuji X100, Fuji X-pro1, D800.
Non IQ outstanding-ness: Olympus OMD5 & Nikon J1/V1 for their AF.
Other exceptionable systems: Leica M9 Monochrome - Full Frame, 18mp of B&W recorded at each pixel. Sigma's SD1 (dropping of price) for the Foveon with each color at each pixel. (shame it is stuck at a sub-par system.) Canon MkIII video.
When comparisons come up, those camera's above is what everyone is comparing to or with and have set the standards and will continue to do so for the next year or well beyond. The D3s is still the High iso king - on many levels.
It seems that more and more Consumers are willing to spend $1,000-2,000+ and pushing companies for all around quality where a few years ago, that would have been way, way too much. Think of the M4/3 systems, not much has changed in 3-4 years. Same MP, same AF, same plastic bodies, barely any improvement in IQ. Now Oly has upped the game in a big way. Lightning fast AF, 5 way sensor shift, weather sealing, much better high iso handling. Fuji has shown that the IQ from DX sensors can rival the first gen FX sensors and beat them in many ways. Nikon with the J1 has shown that compacts can have lightning fast AF and small sensors can knock off m4/3rd sensors in IQ. The G1x for a high-end p&s travel camera is amazing. 36mp D800!
These are the first in a new set of standards that companies will have to meet. The question is, who will be the first to combine them all? Oly has come close with the OMD5 - but the sensor still has the high iso limits. If they can raise that bar, they may win the mid level market.