turned into the Kia of the MTB world in 10 short years?
Their focus changed IMO
I don't think it did.
Sure, Joe Murray left, but IIRC from back in the day Mr Murray was a bit of a downhiller. Look at early 90s Konas: Unremarkable at the back, but look at that front end! Oversize headset (rare) tough, straight bladed forks, 2.2in tyre when everyone else was on 1.95in. All Kona/Murray branded parts. Now remember, this was when people went downhilling on the same bike they did XC on, and konas were built like that to make going downhill faster and more fun.
Over the years downhilling gained suspension, more speed, more requirement for toughness, and along came freeriding, which is more of the same really, but bigger!
Konas bikes follwed on, they got tougher. Even the hardtails did (Hoss) the same.
Some people have this idea that if a bike is sold in a certain shop, that makes it worse. Wrong. It just meanss you can buy one there, doesn't it?
I'll tell you right now, I've had several Konas and loved them all. (I've had more Konas than any other make actually) And Right now, I'd choose a Kona over a Giant, Scott, Lapierre, Focus, BMC, Commencal (Any of those Euro brands) Orange, Santa Cruz, Cotic, Cannondale and a few others I can't think of right now.....