Chris, you're not the only one hesitating in anticipation of new Intel-based Macs. To answer your question, Apple intends to put Intel processors into all of its laptops. Now, whether Steve and company will plop them into the iBooks or come out with some new budget-range laptop altogether is an open question. Same deal with the precise timeline; Jobs said only that Apple will transition to an all-Intel lineup of Macintosh computers by the end of 2006.
The current 14-inch iBook G4 is no slouch and is perfectly adequate for basic use, though we often direct serious users toward the souped-up (and more expensive) 12-inch PowerBook G4. That said, if you can afford to bide your time (and you want a laptop with four years of longevity), we'd hold off until the Intel-powered Macs arrive (the MacBook Pro should hit store shelves any day now). Judging from the iMac Core Duo, the MacBook Pro will deliver more efficient, faster computing overall. We're expecting ours to come in the mail real soon, and we'll have our review up as soon as possible.
If the price of the MacBook Pro scares you off, have a look at our round-up of the Best Budget Notebooks.