I realize that there are those people out there who agonize over technology purchases. The real question, however, is not whether or not to purchase new technology but when to purchase. It is important to distinguish between new devices, new operating system upgrades and new technologies. For example, both Apple and Microsoft have just recently upgraded their operating systems to new versions. However, the changes in operating systems were essentially incremental and did not reflect any basic technological changes. Both new operating systems work fine on the existing newer hardware although there are likely some older machines that are no longer able to support the upgrade. Since purchasing a new computer system is inevitable at some point, it is important understand the cycles that exist in the technology community.
One example of this cycle, is the advent of touch screen technology. Some of the manufacturers are presently trying to move the touch screen technology used on tablets and smartphones into the world of desktop computers. However there is a vast difference between holding a device in your hand and using your fingers to control computer functions and attempting to use a large screen for the same type of functions. Just think about holding your arms up in the air all day long trying to operate your computer. Although I think that transition to touch screens is inevitable, I will have to see some reasonable adaptations to the physical reality of using a touchscreen on a large desk top type computer.
Would I run out and purchase a new touchscreen computer? Not likely, unless there were other compelling reasons to do so. Am I interested in purchasing any of the vast array of electronic devices currently available in the market? Only vaguely. One good indicator of technological change is to watch the development of microprocessing chips from Intel Corporation. The present chipset is the Haswell Series 8. Series 9 is predicted for 2014. With the introduction of the new chipset you can expect upgrades in most of the software products with a few products being replaced by entirely new versions or disappearing from the market.
It is my experience that most genealogists are very conservative in their technological purchases. Additionally, it is very likely that most of the genealogists based their decisions concerning purchasing new computer equipment and software on budgetary concerns rather than looking at changes in technology. I commonly talk to people who are using software products that are several versions out of date and computers that have long since been abandoned by the market. I have learned through sad experience that it is much easier, although more expensive, to upgrade regularly. There comes a point however if you neglect to upgrade your equipment that the upgrade itself becomes catastrophic.
I have made this observation previously, that people will often upgrade their automobiles more regularly than they do their computers. As of the date of this post, the most active part of the technological market is in tablet computers and very large television screens. Neither of these two devices are particularly essential for genealogical research. Not too long ago, I wrote about the purchase of a new iPad. That purchase was based on the fact that I got a very good trade-in allowance for my original iPad. Depending on how you count models I traded up four or five models. The main driving force in the decision was based on the fact that software apps for the iPad no longer work on my older version device. I could have continued to use the older iPad but I would have lost any trade-in value within a very short period of time and at some time in the future I would have needed to upgrade in any event.
So where are we today at the start of the 2013 holiday season? It is a good time to buy iPads and tablet computers in general because most of the models have been recently updated. It is also a good time to buy smartphones since they are upgraded regularly and anytime is as good as any other time. Regular incremental changes also apply to large TVs. If you need a new computer, it looks like any really dramatic technological changes might not take place until late in 2014. If you see a dramatic drop in the price of any device you can rest assured that it is about to be replaced with a new model. As I mentioned, the danger of buying the older model is that the new model may contain changes that require the update of existing software.
With the recent update of the Apple OS X operating system, I had only two programs, so far, that needed new version updates, that is, updates that I needed to pay for. You should always be aware of the cost of updating your software when you purchase any new system.
One change in the marketplace that has affected me directly is the transition that Adobe software has made in the way that it distributes its software. Adobe no longer sells its software products and packages to customers, it rents the software. Because of a limitation on the number of computers allowed for any installation I am looking at a dilemma of trying to use the software when I work on more than two computers. I see Microsoft moving into the same software model and I assume that other developers will soon follow Adobe's example.
Not all technological changes are an advantage to the ultimate consumer.