Japanese companies have been really complacent in recent years. Canon and Nintendo are the worst offenders, I think.
Are we talking post-Wii or pre-Wii? 'cuz, if you remember, at the time it was the big N doing the unthinkable launching a system based around a "gimmick" and not asking consumers to shell out huge money for a system based on its graphics. Then there's the DS...and now the 3DS...if anybody was complacent in that market, design-wise, it was Sony. In any case, continuity is often a good thing (no Wii for me, though - no GameCube backwards-compatibility, which made little sense from a strategic positioning POV, though I think their new core disallowed it).
And on Nikon's side: "If we just release a camera with a Sony sensor / a sensor 2MP less than Canon, we will be crowned the "High ISO kings!"
To be sure, the D90 came first with DSLR video, but Canon's been out there trying to solidify their core competency by designing and producing their own sensors. This has been, and remains, a shaky part of Nikon's business model (though not as bad as all the MF manufacturers who were apparently reliant on Kodak sensors).