Upgrade path for tablets like a computer?

Tablets are great for consuming & creating content (with the right size). Have we thought how long we are to use a tablet for?

I would like to consider cost vs. long-term computing utility, with OS upgrades. Warranties are also thrown into the mix, alongside TCO.

With phones, this is a tad easier. Many people have 2-year contracts, so they use their phone for 24-months. The upgrade cycle from what I’ve read/anecdotally is usually around 18-months on average (sorry, no references). Phones are subsidized (heavily in countries like the USA where they are locked; not so much in Malaysia where consumers are conned). Any additional time over 24-months is probably borrowed time (in the USA, Apple sells warranties for 2 years on their iPhones; in Malaysia there is no such thing as AppleCare+).

With laptops & desktops, warranties usually last 3 years (with the extended warranty option). This is a sensible amount of time to use a computer (36 months). Of course people extend the use of this and there is always a second-hand market, so the useful life of laptops & desktops can be extended quite a bit. My MacBook Pro which I use daily is already 42 months old (yes, I know it is out of warranty and time for an upgrade). The operating system can generally be upgraded from version to version without much issues (this is true for OSX, Windows, Linux).

What about tablets? If you buy a cheap device like a Nexus 7, it comes standard with Android 4.0. I guess the latest update is Android 4.2, but how long do you expect there to be upgrades?

In contrast, what about if you buy the cheapest iPad? Cheap for tablets usually relates to size, and the smallest iPad is 16GB in size. How long do you expect to get upgrades?

What happens if you buy the largest-sized tablet? Do you feel further entitled to get upgrades for longer? The increments roughly are about USD$100 per size upgrade (16->32->64GB).

For the cheapest iPad (16GB iPad4), you can already purchase a netbook/cheap desktop. You will get OS upgrades for a long time using a PC, but on a tablet, you may at most, get 2 years. 

Companies are now rolling out tablets in droves. Where are the TCO studies for this? I’m not saying Apple’s 2 years are bad. There are many Android-powered devices that have gotten less than that in terms of OS-upgrades.

How is group IT managing this new cost? What happens to older tablets?