I bought my current laptop just before OSCON '03, and my plan was to keep it for three years. That was the deprecation schedule for laptops at IQE, as I recall, and it seemed like a reasonable number to latch on to. That time is quickly approaching, and isn't it just my luck that the kind of hardware I'm likely to want isn't currently on the market, exactly.
My basic demands are:
My first laptop was a Compaq Contura Aero; it was a sub-notebook, about the size of a ream of paper. It's the laptop by which I tend to judge all others. As for running a unix-like operating system, that's hardly an issue these days. Anything'll do... but three years with my PowerBook have made me really, really enjoy Mac OS X. I would take a lot to get me to switch back to Linux. So much, in fact, that I'm pretty much writing it off. That means that I'm probably looking at one of the upcoming MacBooks. They're not announced yet, just expected. The rumors are that they'll be about thirteen and a third inches (compared to my laptop's 12.1) and will be MacBooks, not MacBook Pros. I have no clear idea what that means, although it might involve coming in multiple colors. Whatever.
What I'm more wondering about is the hardware differences between a MacBook and a MacBook Pro. When I picked up my PowerBook, there was a $600 price difference (give or take) between the 12" PowerBook and the 12" iBook, but there were also some big differences. First of all, the iBook was still a G3! Even when the iBook G4 came out, it didn't have internal Bluetooth, didn't have dedicated VRAM for an external display, didn't run with the lid closed, had less CPU cache, and... well, I think there were yet more things. Also, I much prefer the feel of the aluminum PowerBook to the plastic iBook. I know that many people say the reverse, but not me. The iBook feels flimsy and flexy to me.
So, if the next Mac notebook isn't a Pro, do I have any reason to care? I think my real demands of it will be:
I don't ever run knave with its lid closed, so that doesn't really matter. I'm not worried about Bluetooth, because I can't imagine the MacBook not having it. I'd like an express card slot, in theory, because I'd like someday to get an EDGE modem (or the like) for use on the bus. Unfortunately, those aren't on the market yet, and I think that all the service providers charge much more for data cards than for cell data plans -- I'd be better off using a cell phone as a modem.
I don't need an integrated iSight, although I think there will probably be one. I'll need one USB and one firewire port, minimum. Ethernet and 802.11. Again, I can't really imagine these being left out.
With my needs spelled out, I think I'm probably going to be happy with anything they put out. I'll just hope that it's cheap and available in a color that doesn't irritate me.