Why I’ll Wait on Snow Leopard, and Why Maybe You Should Too

snow_leopard_boxA new cat is upon us, but that doesn’t mean I’ll pounce on the latest upgrade, pardon the pun. Dare I admit in public I’m not an early adopter? Hey, if you like living on the edge, go for it. Go ahead and cook your poultry below 165 degrees or eat raw eggs.

Me, I play it safe. Mac users like everything to work out to the box and a new OS simply doesn’t. Do you really want to spend your weekend messing with a “better” operating system? Ask these guys about that.

I may be a lonely voice among the chorus of praise for Snow Leopard, but here are five reasons why I’m going to wait a bit before hearing this new cat purr.

1. It’s a Point 0 Release

Maybe it’s because I’m married to a Quality Assurance engineer, but I worry about unfixed bugs. I remember 10.5 having a critical data loss bug. Will 10.6 have it? I hope not. What other bugs will be discovered that first weekend? Several. Some could make your Mac virtually unusable, while others will be merely annoying.

Which ones will I face? None. I’ll wait for you all to find them while I sit back and read about your trials and tribulations. Online forums are already full of posts noting the prevalence of software-based kernel panics in Snow Leopard, and undoubtedly there are many bugs waiting to be discovered in the days ahead as the rough edges get sanded down.

2. My Programs May Not Work Properly

In theory, the code has been in hands of developers for a long time and they should have been able to update for full compatibility. However, Apple (s aapl) changes aspects of Snow Leopard after each build, and some builds can introduce bugs very late in the game. Do I have time to check each and every app and make sure it’s Snow Leopard compatible? Some incompatibilities might even prevent an install. 10.5 early adopters ran into big problems with “haxies.” What should we avoid with a 10.6 install? I’ll find out next month I’m sure.

Should I even mention Quicken 2007? If your business relies on Quickbooks, would you trust it in Snow Leopard, especially with older versions Intuit no longer supports? How about old versions of Creative Suite left over from your PowerPC days? Adobe says you’re on your own with that. Programs not designed for Intel-based Macs are the most likely candidates for problems.

If you don’t care about productivity, have fun this weekend. If you use your Mac to help put food on the table, your biggest risk is to lose your primary money maker for a few days. If you can afford the down time in this economy, go for it. I sure can’t.

3. Hardware Could Fail, and Fail Hard

A long, long time ago…I can still remember… How my Mac would start up with a smile. I can’t figure out how to change the words of American Pie to include the day AppleTalk died, but die it does in Snow Leopard, after outlasting System Enablers, floppy drives, and SCSI. That trusty laser printer you connect via AppleTalk becomes a big huge paperweight under Snow Leopard according to most reports. Someone might develop a workaround, but that isn’t going to help you with your deadlines.

Your printer isn’t the only casualty in Snow Leopard. An old Palm Pilot or Palm-based phone is no longer supported, and you’ll be required to buy third party software such as Missing Sync. As of this writing, Missing Sync isn’t fully compatible with Snow Leopard. What other hardware might have problems? Scanners are my next guess. Hopefully your manufacturer will develop a driver if your product is still supported. Speaking of support…

4. Lack of Support by Vendors

A vast majority of the support people you talk with will be completely flummoxed if you’re running Snow Leopard. They already treat you like a second-class citizen because you’re on a Mac. If they ask which version of the OS I’m running and I say 10.6, I suspect their brain will explode right then and there.

Snow Leopard will be blamed, not their product. Cable modem down: Snow Leopard. Printer making grinding noise: Snow Leopard. Health care claim denied: Snow Leopard. You’re probably laughing, but maybe not, if you’re one of many who’s run into something similar.

5. I’m Cheap

Sure, I’ll only pay $10 for the Up-To-Date program and others will only have to pay $29. However, my new iMac works great. Even $10 is an unneeded expense. Why mess with something that’s working well? My system works, I get things done. The last thing I need is to change everything. I’ll give it a few months until 10.6.1 comes out and the early adopters have done the hard work of finding problems.

Who else is going to skip curling up with a new cat this weekend and wait for someone else to find the sharp claws?