Writing here so I won't subject people to it in public...
In my laptop flirtation that's gone on over the past two months (most notably in the past two weeks, when work has been due), I've come up with the following parameters for the computer:
(1) Must be Apple: First of all, like I said, I have this unhealthy obsession. Second of all, I really do believe that most other brands of laptops simply die after about two years of heavy use. The same could be true of a Mac, and I have heard of some problems, but I just have a little more faith in the machine.
(2) Must be 12": This narrows it down to either the 12" iBook or PowerBook. Basically, I need to get this machine to and from the library every day, without it being a royal pain in the ass.
(3) Ideally, some longevity involved: 2 -3 years of useful portable computing, perhaps?
From researching on the web, it seems like the iBook vs. PowerBook question is sort of the Paper vs. Plastic question at the grocery checkout line. With a few more complications. Especially with recent upgrades bridging the gap, it's more a question of if you're willing to spend $500 more for a mostly better/faster computer. Someone made a good analogy-- difference between a tricked out iBook and a basic 12" PowerBook is similar to the difference between a tricked out Honda Accord and a bare bones Accura. And there are things about the PowerBook that I think are just kind of neat- all sorts of audio/video ports, plus bigger std hard drive, and the ability to work with video and music fairly well (iBook will probably have some bumps and trips here and there).
When it comes down to it, though, price is the kicker-- I might have $500 extra to spend in the future, but I certainly don't have it now. Not to mention the fact that I don't have $1000 to spend now, so why increase the amount that I'm paying back for a few bells and whistles. If the PowerBook were substantially lighter (as opp. to .3 lbs lighter), maybe I'd be in a more dubious position.
Interesting factoid if you don't check macrumors.com twice daily, Apple is making a move to Intel based processors, making Apple computers a bit closer to PCs. They used to be working off of PowerPC chips (which were made by Motorola and/or IBM? I'm not sure where the lines stop/start), and at this point, they have reached something of an empass. The chips, though good and fast, have not been getting better and faster at the rate Apple would like-- that is, a rate comparable to PC machines. On the plus side, Mac's operating system, OSX, uses its processor more efficiently (so the pundits say), such that the physical chip speed doesn't make as huge a difference as one would think, comparing the specs of Mac & PCs. However, the next generation Mac chip, the G5, is just too darn hot to get into a laptop right now (no...really...it needs lots of cooling and ventilation and stuff, and would possibly melt your thighs if it were to rest on your lap in a small metal or polycarbonate box). Soooo they started developing hardware/software/OSX to work with Intel processor chips that can take them faster.
There are rumors, lots and lots of rumors, that instead of releasing the first Intel Macs (likely iBook and Mac Mini) in March, that they'll come out at the Mac convention that's being held early on in January. Pretty crappy when you think that if they did it a few weeks earlier, you could ask for it for Christmas...(or I could...if I would...which I wouldn't).
So now it's just a matter of time. I will look towards January 10 (or whenever it is the keynote address for the convention is), and if they say "Intel based iBook, 13" widescreen, shipping today!", I'm on board, and that's my ride. If they say nothing of the kind..12" iBook here I come. That will be exciting, but just a 'tad bit less.
Another interesting point, Apple has a so so history when it comes to first generation products. The first products of a new line tend to be a little bit glitchy (such as the iPod Nano's propensity for getting scratched). This is generally held to be a result of their sealed-lid privacy and product security while they are in development. So if something new is available in the beginning of January...and I buy it...there could be lots of problems. But I'd rather that w/ option of recalls/etc, than get a more reliable machine that I know will be shorter on features/speed. Hm. As long as the hard drivve doesn't crash....thinking of it now, daily document backups will be very much in order.