Well this is a fun topic... did you try doing a search Phil?
Anyhow, this is actually something that has intrigued me in recent years about ski construction. Since I ski on mostly race stock skis, or skis that are built similar to race stock skis, I find it quite amusing that ski companies are still pushing, not only the "system" skis, but the crazy technology and various gimics that they pile into these skis.
so now we have two major categories of skis: Race stock skis and big mountain skis that are built like race stock skis, and regular "technology-packed system skis." So, clearly the "race stock" variants offer higher performance than a normal consumer ski. We are starting to see the use on world cup construction on very high end consumer skis like the Head IM:88, the SuperMojo, the Supercharger Blower, and many others. Still though, we see cap skis, system skis, and essentially "mass produced" skis returning year after year to consumer lines.
Why? Well, I suspect there are a few reasons. The biggest reason is that WC construction (meaning vertical sidewall full laminate construction) skis are hard to make. They aren't cheap. They do however offer a lot of variations on how you can make the ski flex and how you can lay out various materials. Of course, this makes the skis all that much more complex to build and it is also just as difficult to get them to "cure" properly and end up with matched flex patterns.
So... ski companies are always searching for a way to perfect the process, so they can mass produce a ski that will have performance similar to the above type of ski (say for example the Volkl All-Star). Not only does this save them money, but they can also attach a ton of marketing hype to whatever this years "new technology" is. This is most likely why you see all of these crazy cap designs (Beta, DoubleGrip, Sigma, Spaceframe (as wel as the new integrated prolink thing - which I might add skis pretty well for a retail salomon design), and whatever Head calls their profile.
Basically, they offer high enough performance and are still cheap to make. While they are at it they integrate a plate into the ski for flex reasons (I agree with the plate idea)... this plate however is drilled for specific bindings... (Speaking of which have you noticed that most "systems" now, while binding specific, will actually accept a "spacer" binding of that particular company; so you can essentially mount any binding of the required company to the "system" plate. My guess is that this is the standard you will see adopted. Specific bindings will still be required, but they will begin to be sold separately for those people who already have other bindings at home...)
Why? Well the obvious reason is so you buy bindings. It also makes sure that you aren't drilling nice skis and attaching horrible bindings. It also makes sure that you are using a proper plate (believe me that are those out there that would still flat mount race skis with un-lifted spacer bindings and call it a day... which I think is the 8th deadly sin... if it hasn't been classified yet it should be... soon, in fact I will get the mod-squad on this as soon as possible). All things considered, I don't think it has been bad for the industry. Most consumers are now on better, more up-to-date equipment because of it. That is never a bad thing - just ask Phil how important the having the right gear is...
I personally think that the benefits of systems significantly outweigh the negatives that they bring to the table. Yeah it sucks if you just bought your 15th pair of skis [cough]Phil[cough] and they required that you buy a 15th pair of bindings versus removing a pair of bindings from one of the 14 other pairs [of Metrons] that you have and putting them on the new pair. I will say however, that most skiers who are truly high level skiers, requiring top notch equipment, are not skiing on the system stuff anyway; or if they are, they only ski on one pair, and the rest of their skis are construction that is, or at least lends itself to race stock construction. I'm not saying that the system skis are bad, but there are certainly better performing skis out there... which also cost a lot more money to get your hands on...