As far as the bricked units go, do they have JTAG ports? You could always try re-flashing the bricked units. Otherwise, you could always try a BusPirate to flash the EEPROM/FLASH chip directly. I hate to see hardware go to waste :) (Assuming you could get your hands on a copy of the firmware that *doesn't* brick the unit)
Also, just thinking aloud, but flash memory is cheap and plentiful; why don't manufacturers, when designing a board, design it such that it uses a flash chip that's one size up (16MB vs 8MB, etc), and write the factory firmware twice, so the device can still boot even after a bad update? I guess that's just wishful thinking, but would certainly save them money (vs, say, overnighting a new unit and a technician to install it halfway across the globe) while still upholding their service contracts. I was originally inclined to think "they just wanted to save a buck", but really, if this had happened under a service contract with defined SLRs, it would be in the company's best interest to make it easily fixable.