Do you ever get the feeling that technology is getting a bit ahead of itself? The multitude of technological innovations is a beautiful thing, except when it gets so diverse that it becomes baffling. I’m pretty up on technology generally – not just Mac stuff, but TV stuff, mobile telephone stuff, wireless stuff…...Having such prodigious knowledge of technology, you might very well expect I always have the answer to what to buy, where to shop, and what features to look for. If it’s Mac stuff then I’d say that, yes, most of the time I will know what to buy. But with other stuff I often hit problems.

It’s not that I don’t understand the technology – or that I don’t know what I need. It’s the opposite, it’s because I understand the technology and know what I need that I run into problems. Take telephones: I’ve had my Motorola V600 camera phone for over a year now, so it’s time for a change. Being something of an early adopter, I’m interested in 3G phones – but I also tried out a BlackBerry phone recently and found it very appealing. But the BlackBerry didn’t have a camera, and come to that I think I need video instead of a stills camera now, especially if I go the 3G route. So here I am, a rare telephone customer willing to upgrade, and even pay for the privilege, but I can’t buy anything because I want all the newest features in one phone (oh, and it has to be tiny too).

So because of the plethora of available features, the telephone industry has lost, or at least put off for a while, a punter. In the meantime I’m now carrying two phones: one camera phone and one BlackBerry, to bridge the gap.

Television is another problem area for me. The average person gets a new TV every seven years. In computer terms that’s at least two generations, maybe more. My TV is approaching ten years old; I got it when a Quadra 840av was state-of-the-art Apple technology, and Charles and Diana were still married. When I bought it, it represented state of the art (as best as I could afford) technology, and I’ve been looking for a reason to upgrade it for at least five years. Plasma looked good for a while, though the prices started at £12,000 only five or six years ago.

As soon as plasma prices started dropping, LCD screens were introduced in giant size. By this time digital terrestrial services had started, so I thought it would be good to have a TV with a digital tuner (I can’t have a satellite dish on my house). So that should have settled things a bit: I wanted a TV no smaller than my current 29-inch Sony, but with a wide screen, either LCD or Plasma, for less than £2,000, with a digital tuner – oh, and it needs to be HDTV-ready.

The whole HDTV thing is going to be great, and if I pay £2,000 for a TV I want to be damned sure it will cope with technology for at least another five years. So that’s another prerequisite, HDTV resolution in anticipation of HD-DVD or Blu-Ray DVD. I think that’s all I need. The trouble is, nobody has invented a TV with all that yet, at least not at a price I like. So the old Sony stays for now until standards are set and connections are decided on. My wallet dodges another bullet due to too much choice in technology.

Buying Apple products has some challenges, but generally not ones where you need to choose your features so carefully. The beauty of Apple is that it puts every piece of technology it can afford to into every new model. If you buy a Mac shortly after its release it will have everything you could reasonably expect unless you are going down the budget path. Even budget models have everything you could imagine you could want within that budget. But if you buy a top-of-the-range Mac, be it iBook, PowerBook, iMac or Power Mac, you’ll have the latest gear – so it’s with some confidence that I can predict that the next release of the Power Mac G5 will include dual layer 16x DVD recorders, quite possibly with LightScribe technology.

Do I know that because I have insider info, a mole at Apple spilling the beans? No: I know Apple – it uses top-quality ingredients. It will also include a new technology that you probably won’t have heard of, that will give no advantage until it is adopted by other companies, and that might take years. I’m not thinking of any particular technology, I’m just going on previous form. For example, USB, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire, Bluetooth 2.0+, 802.11… the list goes on.

If you want to be an early adopter without doing the hard work and research, it’s easy – just wait to buy your Mac at the right time and you’re guaranteed that it will come with bragging rights somewhere along the line. The trick is all in the timing. Sure, you can pick up older Macs and make small savings if you wait until a new speed update is just around the corner, but the savings are never that significant and the new version will always add more value than you’ll save. Just keep some money aside for a new Mac and wait for an upgrade announcement. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a whole generation leap – that’s the best time to make your move. When the form factor changes, it usually means upgraded logic boards, and that means a longer useful life.

Apple is secretive. It doesn’t like to give people a reason not to buy a Mac at any given point. Pre-announcing updates to the product range would stop people from buying when a new announcement is made. However, the upgrade cycle is fairly predictable – so if you know when the last product announcement was, you can have a fair idea of when the next version will arrive.

Having said all that, if it looks like there’s a year before the right moment might arise, you need to factor in how much work or fun you could be having in the intervening year. Waiting isn’t always the smart thing to do if you’ve a pressing need – but organizing your savings to match the update calendar can help keep you cutting edge all the time. MW