My husband bought be a Mac Book Pro for Christmas and I absolutely love it! I am a former PC user (and still use it at work) and I was able to pick up the Mac in no time at all- it is super user-friendly. Starting at $1099, they are about $300 more than your budget but are perfect for photo editing & music production. In spring 2007, Apple is launching software that will enable your Mac to run either as a PC or Mac, if you are concerned about not being able to run some programs that are unique to PC's.
As frannita mentioned, if you are a student, work at a college or in the higher education field, or are a federal/state employee, you are eligible for a discount from Apple.