Very interesting thread and discussion. I know I am not a "photography virtuoso", but I do think about the pace of development. I have used slide film for 20 years, and I have learned a lot from that. I bought my first digital camera (a Powershot Pro 1) in 2004, just to see what it was all about. My previous experience with digital workflow stemmed from using a film scanner, and the concurrent image processing, to scan my slides. It took me more than a couple of months to achieve the results I wanted.
Therefore, by the time I finally let go of my film SLRs, and ventured into the DSLR world (with a 5D MKII in early 2009), I was not new to digital workflows and softwares. I have pretty much maintained my workflow, both while shooting, and processing the image (more or less, of course). For my needs, PS Elements is adequate, with a couple of plugins for noise reduction and curves. I only have to upgrade when I need a particular camera to be supported; it actually annoys me (to be soft on the subject...) when a new version ov ACR does not work with a previous version of Elements, and then I am forced to upgrade Elements...
Anyway, I am one of those guys who do not upgrade just for the sake of it. I have a well defined workflow (heck, I even still use graduated neutral grds in the field, rahter than this HDR merging stuff), that works for me. I suppose this is one of the difficulties for both newcomers and old timers in photography: to try and develop your workflow - in the case of the former - and to try and not disrupt your established workflow too much - in the case of the latter.
The pace of development, both in software and cameras, is just too much. To become good at what you do, you need to learn the software and get experience with it; only then you will be able to tell if a new version will be good for your photography. Without this "learning period" you will not be able to achieve stability to develop the artistic side of your photography. Software should be used as the tool to get you somewhere, and should not be a hindrance. I work for the oil industry, every couple of years or so the subsurface modelling software I use is upgraded, so I have to learn a few new things. This is fine, because I have a lot of experience with the software.
Cameras are like computers and gadgets these days. For example, the pace of release of new cameras, especially compacts, has attained such a level, that what happens is that when a new camera is announced and finally becomes available in the stores, its replacement is announced! I have seen it happen in my local store time and time again. For example, a new camera is announced today, arrives in the store 1 or 2 months later, and then its replacement is announced. This is ridiculous, and confuses people. Also, in the near future, compact cameras and mobile phones will merge into one gadget. Camera makers are incorporating touch screens and GPS, obviously taken from mobile phones.