One of the intriguing things about 29"ers to me is the resurgence of the hardtail frame which had been declared "dead" by a certain magazine back in the late 90's. It would seem that the frame design has had new life breathed in it by the developement of the 29"er over the past eight years.
Is this really true though? Take a look at how the 29"er developed. It was mostly by small custom builders, albeit Fisher was also making them. Smaller builders typically cannot afford the high developement and manufacturing costs of a full suspension design. So, even though a few full suspension designs saw the light of day in 29"er wheels, the vast majority of the earlier bikes were by necessity, hardtails. They were easier and cheaper to make. With the wheel size lending a smoother ride in the first place, a lot of folks thought suspension might be unnecessary. Now however, this seems to have changed a bit.
We are beginning to see the emergence of the longer travel, All Mountain/Free ride/ Down hill 29"er and folks are salivating at the possibilities. Will this be the beginning of the end for hardtails? No way! I don't think that for a minute.
For one thing, hardtails were never dead in the first place. Even in the 26"er world, hardtail XC race bikes still dominated and for simplicity, reliability, and light weight they still are on top of the heap. Sure, you won't be doing major drops, flying off the sides of cliffs, or bombing rock gardens at warp speed, but you won't find much else that a hardtail can't at least traverse without dabbing, albeit at slower speeds than some full suspension bikes.
So, if the hardtail is dead, then nobody got the message, and especially us 29"er freaks!