Yes, Gilgamesh, I as well would think you are in the minority. I purchased my Roku in June 2011 without realizing that it did not support subtitles. So I twittered Roku, and the reply was that they were working on it. Sure, the moment we purchase technology, we are behind. But the Roku 1 not supporting subtitles is not the same since the technology has been around so long. Roku is just catching up, and so I would expect them to provide a software update for Netflix subtitles instead of having us purchase a brand new machine. I am a Mac person. I don't have to buy a whole new laptop to take advantage of most updates. I just buy the newest OS. Come on, ROKU. We have been faithful in launching your success. Don't leave us hanging. You WILL lose supporters. I need a second device for another TV, but will jump the ROKU ship over this and purchase another brand of streaming device.
As a fellow Mac user, I would point you to Apple's iOS history for some comparison. Successive major releases have either removed support for older devices, or feature-limited them. I used to have a 2nd-gen iPod touch, and while it could install iOS4, few of the major feature additions actually made it to the device. 1st-gen users were left out completely. And 2nd-gen units have since been deprecated as well, as they can't get the latest iOS4 updates, and they will not get iOS5 either. I ultimately sold that iPod and moved up to a 4th-gen touch, and it was a great decision.
I'd also look at all this through the lens of the PPC-Intel transition Apple went through.
My point: the basic hardware design of the Roku had been basically the same until the Roku 2s came out, whose summer release timeframe was first mentioned in various news venues back in the spring. Roku 2 has new and different components (and firmware). The stream format that Netflix decided to use for the Roku 2s may simply be incompatible with the Roku 1 models. And that was ultimately and solely Netflix's decision, not Roku's, since Netflix programs and controls their own channel. No matter when you purchased it, the hardware had been in release for three years in various forms, so having third parties limit future feature support on older hardware, in order to do more advanced things with new hardware, should come as no surprise. This happens all the time.
Should Roku have been more forthcoming if they knew what the Netflix situation would be? Perhaps. But then Apple is known for being very tight-lipped with that sort of information until it's ready to present or release a product. And an NDA may have been in play, limiting what Roku could publicly disclose. Considering the potential options, I'd rather stick to what actually happened, than to have a case where Roku announces early that Netflix wouldn't be supporting subtitles and 5.1 for R1 models, and then have Netflix pull all of its support from all Roku devices. Frankly, losing Netflix as a part of the Roku experience would've been quite deadly, especially in the midst of this mainstream rollout.
Pinning this all onto a customer loyalty claim seems dubious at best. Especially when you only purchased your Roku in June. It sounds like this was your first Roku, is that correct? I don't want to turn this into a flame war or anything, but I don't think that someone who joined a user base 2 months ago can really compare their loyalty to those who were there 2 or 3 years ago and continue to support Roku. (And no, I don't fall into that latter group either, as you'll see in a bit.)
I've seen the same claims made when other companies limited or ended support for older hardware, and it rarely, if ever, has had a noticeable impact long-term. Given the mainstream push that is fairly new for Roku, I think it's far more likely that the influx of new buyers, including those who are looking for subtitle support on Netflix, will far outweigh the non-purchases from any past customers.
You're not wrong to be making the decision you've outlined, but it seems pretty clear that Roku has made a business decision, to risk losing a few existing purchasers in order to reel in far more newcomers. Right or wrong, it's not our call. We can voice our dissatisfaction, and ultimately take our business elsewhere if it seems warranted.
I bought my Roku last November, and I'm similarly frustrated by Netflix's decision to not support 5.1 audio or 1080p video on the older hardware. I'm disappointed that it played out this way, but that's all. There are still bug fix updates in the works, I'm sure. Plus, channels have continued to see Roku 1-compatible updates since the Roku 2 release. Even Netflix provided a stability update for the older hardware! And the recent Hulu+ update has resolved the vast majority of my issues with that channel. So while I don't get to enjoy 1080p or 5.1 audio from Netflix right now, or have the ability to play Angry Birds on my TV, my Roku still works, and it's still getting better all the time.
In my opinion, of course!