Incarna is supposedly appearing in 2011, concentrating on giving the avatars more personality - what we really want however is ships with more personality.
Look at the Millennium Falcon was a spice freighter, but it's through a lot it's been shot at, repaired at unlicensed facilities, upgraded, patched up, pushed beyond its limits, surfed an explosion and even vomited out by a giant space slug.
Or the USS Enterprise which went on it's 5 year mission, got beat around more than a few times, had some crazy scotsman work miracles to hold it together and push it beyond the limits, it eventually got upgraded just in time to deal with Vger, and later got the shit kicked out of it by the Reliant. After that Starfleet decided that repairing it was not economically viable so it was scheduled to be decomissioned only to have the former crew steal it and ultimately self destruct the vessel over the Genesis planet.
Don't you want that kind of history to be etched into the hull of your favourite ships?
So maybe it's time to completely redo the life cycle of ships to give them a real life, so here's a few ideas to think over.
1) Give Assembled Ships a Serial Number and Registration Date
I sold a noctis to some desperate pilot for 360million isk, at the time he had one of the first of the production line and for a few hours he could feel pretty pimp in his new ride. Now, there's nothing that betrays this fact I could build a noctis today and claim that this was one of the first, nobody would be able to prove otherwise. Similarly, maybe there's a ship collector who's prepared to pay a premium for a ship that was involved in some famous event, but again there's no way to prove this. So when a ship is assembled give it a unique serial number, and a date of registration, these will not be changeable, unless you repackaged the ship. Killmails would display these registration numbers as part of Concord's bookkeeping process, in space you'd be able to see the serial number of any ships on grid by doing a 'Show Info' on the vessel.
This simple feature would enable killboard developers to track individual ships, it would let people collect sightings of Supercaps, provide collectors with an unforgeable ship ID and even let Chribba realise when RMT'ers are selling the same titan again and again. (allegedly)
2) Add a combat log and travel log and other random statistics to ships
Sure, you could just use an external killboard to track kills in a specific ship, but I can't imagine it would be a huge technical stretch to add the same kill logs to the ships and make them visible inside the game. Similarly we could easily track systems visited by that ship in the same way that you can view systems visited by your character. And to satisfy the spreadsheet fans out there include all sorts of other numbers like 'Time spent in space', 'lifetime shield/armour/hull damage taken'.
3) Put all those logs in a black box which can be salvaged after destruction
The ships equivalent of a frozen corpse - either a memorial or a trophy, depending which side of the killmail you were on, the logs might even reveal important data on the victim's behaviour...
4) Long Term Wear And Tear
Ships in Eve can be restored to pristine status by on board modules, nothing ever wears out, well time to change that! The long term stresses due to combat will slowly wear out the shield emitters, power relays, thrusters, warp drives and general structure, internally the game will slowly apply penalties to the ship as daily use wears it out. Now, this means that used ships suddenly are no longer quite as good as new ships, so this in turn creates an actual reason for a used ship market to exist.
Now to offset this slow decline in your chariot of the gods you can take it in for servicing, where the engineers will take your ship into dry dock, take it apart and fix all those things that nanobots just can't deal with in deep space. This takes spare parts, time, and a facililty that's capable of building ships - the amount of time would be similar to the time taken to build the ship in the first place, but the material requirements would be along the line of 10% of the ship cost - now, owning a ship in the Eve universe costs money to keep it running, and maintaining those Titans is going to cost you about half a billion isk a month, after all it would be a shame if your jump bridge or Doomsday weapon failed to activate at an inopportune moment.
After the service it comes back almost as good as new, maybe, even better... I mean maybe you decide to pimp your ride a little more. Sure, you can put those fancy faction modules on your ship, but those can be unplugged at any time, no I'm talking about using the fancy Iridium plated fusion spike initiators as opposed to the plain old tungsten ones....
5) Only The Best For My Ride
So when you're getting your ship serviced you provide a pile of spare parts, which are of course built by players from blueprints, but for each type of spare part you have choices, you can use the designers recommended replacements, or you can save a bit of money and use cheaper bits and pieces which don't work quite so well, or last quite so long. Or you can blow money on fancier parts that eke out more performance. Installing these parts normally needs a complete strip down and rebuild of the ship, but, for those who are impatient we could make an exception for the ships coming straight from the factory. Upgraded spare parts could be added when the ship is assembled for the first time, before any rigs or modules are added, after that the only way to pimp the core ship would be as part of a maintenace service.
6) Packaged Ships = Factory Fresh
Anything that changes the core attributes of a ship, either making it better or worse cannot be stored once a ship is packaged, so if you want to sell a ship on the market it needs to be in pristine condition. This might mean you have to service a ship to bring it back to factory specs, but why bother, there's a contracts system that'll let you sell it 'as is'.
Indeed, with a decent customization system, it opens up the possibility of known ship builders who specialise in putting together ships which come with a bit of an edge out of the box.
7) Exterior Design
More options to personalise ships, alliance logs should be no problem, and you can put those notches on your nose every time you get a kill in that ship. It's not too much of a graphical stretch to add a ships name on the exterior, or the registration number if you've stuck with the default "CaldariCitizen376298's Ibis". And then there's the space dirt that makes your nice shiny Apocalypse look a little less shiny over time, or in the case of Minmatar ships, the rust decals start to peel off and have to be reapplied when your ship is serviced.
Sadly, for simple CPU/GPU load reasons other pilots may choose to disable these features and choose not to see your vessel in all its glory.
I'm sure there's more to this, but I come back to the core idea - ships need more personality and after Incarna is upon us it would be remiss if the ships of the Eve universe were nothing more than cookie cutter copies of each other.