Tablets as (single use) devices
"Unfortunately I believe that Samsung abandoned the early adopters who bought the original Galaxy by refusing to release a firmware updates."
I think the above sums up my biggest gripe with the current tablets situation. Tablets have evolved from the world of mobile phones. Mobile phones are more like devices - like a TV or microwave. Not like a computer. In majority they spend their entire life using the same firmware version (or equivalent of) as they were shipped from the factory. The only time this might get updates is if a fault is found. Classic/dumb mobile phones in their majority suffer the same fate. People buy them, get tired of them, and throw them away. No software upgrades, no new tricks. Which is great for manufacturers. They get to push newer models at us as fast as they can.
Now with tablets (and to a significant extent smartphones) - their level of functionality approaches in a greater degree the level of functionality of a computer. Their price is also higher. Thus people will start more and more to realise that their shiny, expensive toy can't really be taught new tricks. Sure, there are ways of hacking about with these things - but it's not like on a pc. You can't just get your brand new copy of [insert favourite operating system] and install it on a device 5, 6 or even 7 years old. You have to do a lot of research, you have to wait for somebody to have figured out a way of breaking the whichever esoteric variation of bootloader your smartphone or tablet is using - and then do some custom Android (or whatever else) image for it.
However, I don't think the manufacturer (in this case Samsung - but you can choose any other example) is the only one responsible for this situation:
1. ARM might be theoretically a fairly open architecture - but it is mainly open for the licensees - not so much for the end users. With each licensee producing their own variation of the platform - in majority of cases you can't just run vanilla versions of OS's on these devices.
2. The bootloader (or whatever equivalent for the BIOS in the ARM world) seems to vary a lot from device to device. This means even more customisation for a manufacturer in order to release a new version of the firmware (together with point no.1).
3. Google themselves don't seem all that keen to build backwards compatibility with older devices in the newer versions of Android. Devices just 2 years old are not compatible with the latest version of Android. I suppose this is the price of break-neck speed with which Android and the tablets/smartphones develop nowadays - but it leaves people with un-upgradeable devices as a result.
So until the bootloader on various ARM platforms won't be universal, and we won't have a truly open OS to run on these things where the community can contribute and provide drivers and updates in a more universally accessible fashion - the situation will probably stay the same.
I think I'll stick with my 3 years old ultra-portable laptop - which can still be taught new tricks, can be plugged into any peripheral I want to plug it, and can be OS upgraded in any way I please. Bulky and un-tablet like as it is.