Confessions of an upgrade junkie

 

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I’ll admit it: I’m a whore for software updates. I’m always the first person I know to buy new OS upgrades. Adobe keeps getting my hard-earned $$ for every Creative Suite upgrade (at least since CS2, anyway). I spend my evenings with iPhone in hand, clicking on the App Store every so often to see what’s been updated that night. I visit Versiontracker.com almost first thing every morning, and several times throughout the day, to see what’s new. And I get a little tingle whenever I open some piece of freeware or shareware that pops up a notice about a new update, even if the list of changes have nothing to do with me.

But a funny thing has happened recently… I’m starting to skip some of the paid updates.

It started a few months back when my accounting software of choice, MYOB AccountEdge, sent their annual e-mail announcing the 2009 version. I’ve been updating this program just about every single year since I switched to the Mac in 1994. That’s 14 years worth of upgrades at roughly $129 a pop (nearly $2,000!). Usually it’s not a big deal… in the case of AccountEdge, all of my business revolves around that piece of software, and what the heck, it’s a tax write-off to buy the upgrade each year.

However, the 2009 feature list didn’t look very compelling. In fact, almost every single feature was something I would never use! (Who the heck needs integrated Google Maps to see where their customers are?!) So, for the first time in a long time, I chose not to run (er, buy).

Another program with new versions each year is Roxio Toast, a staple for disc burning on the Mac. I’ve had every version of Toast dating back to way before they started offering new versions just before Macworld Expo each year, even though the new features have started to focus less on disc burning and more on other aspects of “your digital life”.

Like clockwork, the e-mail shows up in my inbox announcing Toast 10, and this year, a Toast 10 Pro, which expands on the basic stuff with some bundled software to capture & clean up audio, create photo slideshows and more. I hit the website and scanned the “What’s New” chart, and was shocked to see again that there was nothing for me this year. Doesn’t Roxio want my $79 anymore?

And then we come to Apple’s keynote at this year’s Macworld Expo, which is the first one I can remember where I walked away from the liveblog after 45 minutes or so to eat lunch and do something — anything — else. It was that boring. Sure, a couple of new things in iPhoto ’09 look interesting, if not particularly compelling. I’ve never really used iMovie, and this year’s model it looks like they just put all the functionality back in that they took out with last year’s crappy update (which I have opened a few times but never had the patience to figure out). And the celebrity music lessons in GarageBand? Um… whatever.

Apple also updated iWork ’09, their Microsoft Office copycat, and those changes looked even more boring than iLife ’09. I did cave in and buy iWork ’08, mostly because Microsoft took forever to put out an Intel-native version of Office for the Mac, but about the only thing I’ve done with it is create new product announcements and catalog mailers for Tempe Video in Pages. Until iWork can save in native Office formats (export doesn’t count), I’ll probably continue to give MS my cash.

OK, so I did preorder iLife ’09, mostly for the new iPhoto update. But otherwise, I’m seeing a disturbing trend with software companies who feel compelled to release updates every year with very little meat on their bones. Between AccountEdge 2009, Toast 10 and iWork ’09, that’s almost $300 I haven’t spent versus last year. In my case, that’s a good thing, since I have a baby on the way real soon now, and I’m sure he’s gonna poop his way through $300 worth of diapers in no time flat.

But it does make me stop and think: Have we reached the peak of innovation? Even Apple, who has been on a hot streak for the better part of a decade, has practically admitted as such by announcing last year that the next Mac OS X, code-named “Snow Leopard,” will be more about optimization and speed than new features. And this is a good thing… Leopard 10.5.6 is plenty stable, fast and full of features, so why fix what ain’t broke? Tighten some things up and make it run faster, with smaller application sizes. I’m all for it. Microsoft is also getting in the game with Windows 7. I downloaded the public beta and have been running it through its paces under Parallels Desktop, and it’s basically just a cleaner, leaner version of Vista with more usability. (And the recent Parallels 4.0 upgrade actually is worth the dough, it’s faster and more stable.)

Thankfully, shareware is still plenty busy with innovation, and their software updates are a whole lot cheaper to swallow than the big boys. So I’ll keep watching Versiontracker.com for the latest & greatest, and meanwhile I’ll enjoy the relative comfort of a few extra bucks in this bleak economy that would have otherwise been spent on useless upgrades. How about you?

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2009 at 4:36 pm and is filed under Apple Talk, Complaint Department, Random Thoughts, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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