It's hard to tell whether you're trying to portray a false dilemma or you honestly don't see that there are more than two possibilities involved, namely:
- build the firmware into permanent memory and keep it a secret
- build the firmware into permanent memory and set it Free so that users can contribute to it and find great new uses for the device so that it gets more popular (dlink anyone?)
- have the secret firmware uploaded to the device as needed
- set the firmware Free so that users can upload the original or modified versions thereof to the device as needed
Why do you jump from the conclusion that, by refusing to help hardware vendors impose their choices upon users, and helping users be aware of the problem so they make better purchases next time, vendors would retreat to permanent memory?
There are a number of real-life examples that show the opposite: vendors who, instead of retreating to proprietary territory, pursuing their own interests, embraced and extended freedom, quite often without extinguishing it.
Do you regard hardware manufacturers as particularly dumb people who would prefer to go back to the software dark ages over pursuing their own interests and profiting from the pursuit, or do you perceive any significant change to the hardware manufacturing and selling business in teh last 40 or so years?
You might remember (or have read) that, back then, hardware manufacturers would actually release complete source code to the computers they sold (that were *far* less powerful than today's peripheral computers), and users were glad to contribute to the process of perfecting the system.
It was only when third parties got in and started selling software separately from hardware that proprietary software took over. Why would hardware vendors, that still ship the corresponding software along with the hardware that's their primary business, behave so differently now from the way they did back then, given that there aren't third parties involved?
This is getting long already, but I'd like to also address the point that the ability to patch the firmware so as to fix bugs in it, which hardware vendors evidently perceive as an advantage, may actually turn out to be harmful to users in the long run.
The reason is that, when it's very hard to fix a problem, you'll work very hard to avoid the problem in the first place, but when it's easy to fix it, you're often sloppier on testing, because the customers will do the testing for you and help you shake the bugs out.
With the short shelf life of these products, odds are that many customers will end up finding bugs that the vendor will decide not to fix, either becuase it's not cost effective or because they've already moved on to other products. Fixing stuff that was already sold and that won't sell much anyway is of little economic interest to fix, and customers will be stuck with the problems unless they take it back to the shop for a refund, which few will do.