First off, a disclaimer: Despite my big blue avatar, the views express here are those of the author, and do not reflect the position of Centrafuse Inc, official or otherwise. I have my own forum to be all "official" and stuff.
You are 100% correct that when you pay for software, you have a reasonable expectation of support. CF and RR were around long before I ever got involved in the hobby, so the way things are was already well-established, and its not my place to comment. But I will comment about "getting what you pay for" and the idea behind packaging CF or RR as an all-in-one solution.
All software, regardless of manufacturer, is sold "As-Is". Read the EULA on Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop or any other product you care to name. No claim is made that the software will or won't do anything, up to and including destroying all your data or causing your PC to burst into flames. A bunch of lawyer speak designed to protect them from lawsuits. But in general, they make a good faith effort to do what they claim. Some better than others. And many, including Centrafuse, let you use the entire product, without restriction, for a period of time so you can see for yourself how it works. On your own hardware, and limited only by your own abilities. This isn't specific to you, but I really don't understand how somebody could actually test a product for 30 days, purchase it, then complain that it doesn't meet their requirements or live up to their expectations. What were they doing for the 30 days? If they weren't able to get it installed, or weren't able to get it to do the things they wanted in the way they wanted, shouldn't that have been a clue? Maybe they were in over their heads, or maybe the product wasn't right for their project? As for whether a paid product should be infinitely better than a free product, define better. Better looking? Better plugins? Better install process? Better means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. As the provider, you try to make it as good as you can, then hope that the public and your customers recognize the value. Some do, and some don't.
As for the "all-in-one" solution, whether as a hardware product or an ISO, the answer is economics. It is just not economically feasible for a company the size of Centrafuse to do this. If you write a check to CF for an AIO hardware package that includes CF (whether in PC form or on a tablet), CF is now in the hardware business. It doesn't matter that we didn't design it or build it, all that matters is that we took your money for it. So we have to support it. Same with an ISO image of Windows and CF. Not only would we have to charge a BUNCH more for the product, but we'd STILL be on the hook for the hardware, since the ISO would of necessity be tied to a specific platform. If I tell you that you have to go buy something, and that something doesn't work, who are you going to blame (see Craig Brass DVB radio fiasco for a specific example).
I've said it before, so I'll say it again: The "problem" with RR, Centrafuse, certainly OM and to a lesser extent Driveline is their attempt to be all things to all people. It's a cliché, but its true... "Jack of all trades, master of none". The technology to build a product that is infinitely flexible and configurable while still being easy to use and totally reliable on a very wide variety of platforms doesn't exists. And it certainly didn't exist back in 2006 when most of these products were being born. As greater capabilities become available, the products are hamstrung by the need to protect backwards compatibility... don't break what you already have. CF paid a VERY heavy price for attempting to break from the past with CF3/4, and to a certain extent, still does.
But ultimately, I agree with the general gist of this thread, and I think everyone gets it: It's still too hard, and too unreliable. Folks expect stuff to "just work" especially if they're paying for it. (CF hat on) Expect to see changes this year as we address this problem head on.