It is quite easy to give you advice on an notebook purchase depending on your priorities (size, weight, battery life, or maximum power) but that would be on the existing stock of notebook technologies (Pentium M Centrino, Pentium 4M (similar Desktop Pentium 4), or Athlon 64).
However, your timeframe of 1 year paints a much different picture. As most people acknowledge now that the target useful life for a notebook in the $1000-$2000 price range is only about 2 years (at least to be at or near the cutting edge --you could continue to use it longer just as you have used your desktop for longer but not at peak productivity) your time horizon of 1 year to buy will change your choice from today.
1) The Pentium M (Centrino) notebooks will have a significant chipset revision (and memory speed upgrade from PC2700) in early 2005. These are 32bit.
2) The AMD Athlon 64 is a good choice for the future (as it is 64 bit) but is is still heavier and 64bit is not here heavily yet (but it is on Linux and some features in Windows SP2)
3) A Pentium 4M is a valid choice for people who don't use the notebook unplugged much of the time and want maximum power. But that will all change as Microsoft Longhorn (64bit) approaches.
4) Microsoft Longhorn 64bit (to replace XP, XPprofessional) will appear in late 2006 or 2007 likely. This will change all the priorities.
AMD just released a prototype of a 2 cpu 64bit chip for testing and Intel has not even revealed anything but you know that will be the upcoming priority.
So, today any of the top 3 chip choices are good for different people (I have a Pentium M Centrino for best wi-fi/battery performance and a lighter notebook that runs cooler).
But in 1 year the choice may be completely different.
See the new PCmagazine on the newsstand describing these issues.
If you bought in 1 year the AMD 64 might be the best choice but the options out now are very limited so the Pentium M is better for most people now.
You will really have to start doing serious research and comparison 3 months before your intended notebook purchase not 1 year.
You can get wi-fi now (currently 54G is standard) in nearly any decent notebook over $1,000 but the key decisions lie with LCD size and shape (square or widescreen), LCD resolution (only 1 fixed resolution so you have to choose wisely at the start), video memory (can't be upgraded later either like on desktops), cpu type, notebook weight, notebook battery life, hard drive speed, RAM amount, fixed optical drive choice (CD-RW/DVD ROM or DVD burner, etc.
In about a year, I will be buying a laptop for the first
time, and I,d appreciate any help or advice from people
who have already been there. At present, I,m using a
4 year old desktop, and am ready to become unchained from
my desk! Thanks for any help.