Through numerous bad experiences, I have learned that the most likely cause of laptop "failure" is the lack of updated drivers for new operating systems. As an example, I have a perfectly good Thinkpad T42 at home which runs Windows 7 just fine for my purposes except that no compatible ATI video drivers are available, and the generic drivers have flicker effects.
I recently saw an ASUS laptop which looked quite nice except that I would be beholden to them to release ATI video driver updates customized for it. And, I can't trust them to do that for more than six months.
What laptops (manufacturer/line) should I consider so that I could expect at least a couple years of frequent updates? I plan on running Windows 7 and installing whatever successor comes out.
I like Intel components (especially WiFi) because I can install their drivers directly from them, and they have a long history of providing updates for years after shipping a particular component. More generally, components from companies which are likely to update drivers frequently are good as long as I can install the component manufacturer-provided drivers without laptop-specific customization (like the ATI drivers).
Also, if a component can be replaced easily, I am less concerned. For example, Dell stopped pumping out updated drivers for one of its mini-PCI WiFi cards. The solution was to buy an Intel replacement on eBay for $12! That's fine. I can deal with that.
So, what laptops should I consider so that I'm not likely to be stuck between a rock and a hard place?
So, I priced out a "business class" laptop and found it was 2x as expensive as a consumer laptop with much better specs. Five years ago, the penalty was probably 20%. Now, the leading edge stuff comes out for consumer versions first.
Based on this, I'm now thinking that it's most rational to choose a consumer-grade laptop with the idea that it will only last a couple of years. When the cost $600 instead of $1600, it's not that unreasonable. And, if possible, I'll choose components that are individually upgradable or are from vendors with reputations for good driver support. It's sad that laptops are now semi-disposable, but maybe that's a good thing in the long run.