First, does the current and previous non-manual transmissions (SMG/DCT) auto-shift like the steptronics, or does it bounce off the rev limiter like a manual transmission when you don't shift gears? I've never driven an M car and refuse to do so until I can actually buy one. To me it would be like someone else spotting you a first class plane ticket for a one-time trip. Every flight thereafter in coach would just suck even more.
If the SMG/DCT bounce off the rev limiter like a manual, I really don't see what the fuss is about. You still are technically shifting with your hands and have complete control of what gear you are in. You only lose a third pedal and the ability to mis-shift. I can't imagine many people what the ability to do a 1-4 up shift or worse, a 5-2 down shift. Dropping the hammer at a high RPM? See Launch control which can get consistently faster times than any human. From a technology perspective, you get better gas mileage from the 7SP DCT than the 6SPD MT and by BMW no longer investing money in R&D on how to get a manual to fit and clutch placement, they can focus those resources on better performance or better pricing, which is a win all around.
If these transmissions don't bounce off the redline and auto-shift, then forget I said anything...
Down for Maintenance