Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (and my goodness, if Mac's OS names weren't unwieldy enough, they went and gave a two-word name to the latest version) was scheduled to come out in "September," which, Mac fans assumed based on long experience, meant that it would hit shelves sometimes late in the month. Except! The OS now appears to have hit golden master, and may emerge as soon as August 28 -- or even, in a rumor that AppleInsider recounts but largely pooh-poohs, August 24.
(Side note: doesn't "golden master" sound like it should be referring to a shaven-headed holy man living in a mountain temple somewhere?)
Anyway, this gives me less time than I expected to grapple with the dilemma that faces me every eighteen months or so: how soon do I upgrade? I'm not going to lie to you: I've always pretty much been an early adopter when it comes to OS X. I remember riding the subway home from the office the day the OS X Beta was delivered (I always took Fed Ex deliveries at the office, as they tended to vanish from my apartment building); I was so excited that I opened the package en route, just to look at the CD. I pre-ordered 10.0 when it came out, only to be handed a free copy when I attended the launch press conference at 1 Infinite Loop. (Before I could install the new OS, I had to rush home and write this article, my first for ITworld.com, which is a fun trip down memory lane now. Apparently Apple dreamed that OS X's Unix underpinnings would result in a flood of Linux-style open source apps for the Mac? Also, some poor reporter from CNet got chewed out by Steve Jobs for daring to suggest that the PowerPC architecture might not have a future.) I laid my hands on 10.1 on its first day of release, too; Jaguar came out while I was traveling for six months with nothing but my awful Windows ME laptop, and I wasn't able to start using it for two agonizing months after it hit the market.
But all of those were pretty big milestones in OS X's development. I greeted the three point releases that followed with increasing ambivalence. I never really doubted that I'd upgrade eventually. But did I need to do it right away? Wouldn't it be smart to, I dunno, wait a week or a month to make sure nothing had gone terribly wrong, that there were no showstopping, data-destroying bugs that managed to go through the beta process? (This is, after all, what I usually do with the second-order updates that come via Software Update, so long as they don't include security fixes.) And aren't there all sorts of better things to spend $129 or so on?
These are all fine arguments, and they haven't won yet. The $29 upgrade pricetag on Snow Leopard pretty much ensures that they won't win this time either -- even though there aren't many new features in store, even though my laptop is only a year old and I have no objections to its current performance levels. I promise to describe the upgrade in gruesome detail here. Meanwhile, where do you stand on this issue? Do you upgrade with reckless abandon, hang back to see the lay of the land, or skip a point upgrade now and then to save some cash?