2. I suspect that the vast majority of Adobe's customer base is like me. I'm fairly computer literate in terms of being a user, but I'm far from a technical computer person and don't think I should be required to become one to extract acceptable performance from a piece of end-user software, the "specs" of which my current machine greatly exceeds.
Your point is well taken.
I think if Adobe could make it more simple they would, they're getting a lot of grief over this stuff. But, we need to remember that processing images and especially videos is a very hardware and system intensive task. Tasks that requires the most important areas of a computer (CPU, RAM, GPU, Data I/O) to work at their maximum and perhaps most importantly, to work together. Keep in mind that the hardware drivers are all in play as well, a bad driver can slow LR down to a crawl. Or in other words, there is much more going on using LR to process images than most any other program we use. A close relative would be running powerful games.
We all know if you want your games to run the maximum FPS at the highest detail level and resolution, you need a powerful computer. You can run the games at their minimum requirements on 5-6 year old laptop.. but at a much lower FPS, resolution, and detail level. LR is exactly the same in this way. It requires power to operate at it's best and it requires the system to be in "tune." LR can work at a low hardware level, but we can't expect it to work it's fastest or best. If we want the best performance we need the hardware and system setup to allow this performance level.
Gamers, those who use CAD/CAM workstations, video workstations, they're accustomed to having someone design/build their systems around their software. Imaging is right there, the requirements are the same. Sure, people game and use CAD/CAM on off the shelf systems.. but they don't expect top performance. So, if you really want the top performance for your imaging workstation then it becomes reasonable to expect to either design and build an adequate system, or have someone do it for you.
A common question is: "Why did 3.6 work so well and 4.x not so well?" When your realize they're adding more functional capabilities you almost have to expect the hardware requirements will rise. However, this doesn't mean that something is amiss with their coding. If they got in a hurry and didn't refine their coding and even their design, OR if they are bugs in the coding, then things can slow down more than the progression of function vs. hardware you'd expect. I suspect this is what's happening now.
Yet, on the other hand I suspect the "program of the future", or the program with all the functions/features we really want.. isn't being offered because the hardware requirements are too stiff and too many people are still on older systems. What would be great for someone with the latest system isn't good for the masses running 3-4 year old computers. It's like web page design, I used to run a 800 pixel wide page on my site because that's what the majority of users were using. Today I run an 1100 pixel wide page. If my site was geared towards only professional photographers I'd consider a 1400 pixel wide page because that subset of web visitors would have monitors which support that resolution.
So.. are those with older machines holding Adobe back, or at least slowing them down, from putting out better and more interesting software? I think so. But because of the nature of image processing (hardware/system requirements) and because they want their product to be the professionals choice.. they're probably pushing the hardware requirements a bit stiffer than they otherwise would.
I'm okay with this because I naturally use a more powerful system, and I fear if hardware requirements become too much of an issue then Adobe will hold back on features we want until more of their users upgrade for other reasons.
There's a lot that goes into the decision making process with such software.. our part as end users is to do our best to understand what performance we can realistically expect for a given level of hardware. This is why I really wish Adobe would support ongoing builds vs. benchmarks for their most 'hungry' programs.