First, are you getting a MacBook Pro or a MacBook. Both are great computers and run windows---just as good if not better than PC's. In any case here's my answers:
Student needs - MS Office 2004 for Mac is the best choice. I'm pretty sure the Mac salesman is either a MS hater or paid to not endorse Microsoft. I've said this before, as of now, iWork is not like MS Office. They are not competing, either, because iWork is meant for a different type of document editing. More for like public announcements, flyers, and things that are supposed to have fancy templates and very elaborate fonts... not thesis papers.
On the other hand; Keynote is much better, in my opinion, than Powerpoint. But both are very usable and make very good quality presentations.
For your student needs, go with MS Office Student/Teacher Addition. It'll have everything you need, great functinoality and GUI, and the lowest Office for Mac pricetag. As for Microsoft Acess, I'm sure there are great alternatives out there, but I dont use this so I wouldnt know. In this case: yes, stick with what your used to.
Partitioning your HD - This is very simple in Mac OS X. If you are using the dual boot Boot Camp option, yes this is necessary. I prefer Boot Camp, but to each is own.
As for partitioning, you can do it before you install vista by booting up from a Mac OS X install DVD (you hold C when you turn on your computer to boot from a disc), and selecting Disk Utility. Its very easy, and requires no computer expertise. But try to do it before you load up your computer, for it will destory all your files. When you install Boot Camp with Vista, however, Apple takes care of the process, so it should be fine.
Movies, games, and media - To be honest, the MacBook or MacBook pro kick almost everyone's a$ses when it comes to media. They have top-knotch grapics cards, fast processors, and beautiful displays. Front Row, Apple's built in media-center, is great for any type of media viewing. The included Apple remote will enhance this experience.
Lenovo makes good laptops, but for a similar pricetag, the MacBook pretty much comes out on top: especially with the huge advantage of OS X and Windows.
Games - I am almost certain that games for Windows will run natively when booted in Windows... As for the smerks, you can't hear smerks!...
Advice... - As a student, you can benefit from a Mac. The included wireless, bluetooth, and IR will surely benefit you in this area.. and the reliablity of the Mac OS and Apple hardware is another plus. If you would like to buy a Lenovo instead, that's fine, but a MacBook (not even Pro) has better performance than those. Make sure you get a ThinkPad, though, and not a 3000 Family notebook series one.
Hope this helped.
I am looking for a light weight notebook for school, work, movies, and occasional games (low priority, but would like the option open). Please offer your experience and opinion and also let me know if I should buy a mac or stick with windows based on my use/needs.
As for school I have read that MS Office applications can easily be replaced with neoffice, or iWork (suggested by Mac salesperson). It seems like it's very easy to save in one OS and open in the other. Any thoughts or advice?
What about MS Access? Is there an equivalent or could I just depend on running MS XP via parallels or bootcamp? What is the difference between Parallels and Bootcamp?
I also read another thread that mentioned having to partition the HD for XP. Is this true, if so, is that difficult?
I want to watch movies on the laptop and sometimes on a widescreen monitor via dvi port. The Macbook and Macbook Pro have dvi outputs that would fit this need, so that seems to be a plus. I am leaning toward the Macbook since I want a lighter weight computer, if I go with a Mac. I am debating between a Lenovo (via company discount) or Macbook. I know that the Lenovo is a good business laptop, that may lack in the graphics card area. How do you think the Macbook compares with a Lenovo in this category of displaying movies? I guess it could be the same question for games.
Will the Macbook be able to run Windows games once booted in Windows? I can hear the smerks now from this question.
As you can tell, I am very open into purchasing a Mac, but I am not sure if it will be money well spent if I spend my use in Windows system.
Feel free to include other advice or tips if I didn't cover it.