I had a nice long chat with the apple store today about this exact thing.
I have a 3 year, 4 month old mac book pro that I love and sadly, it is dying. At the same time, It has been open for probably around 8 hours a day every day since purchased with photoshop/flash running at almost every moment of that. It well outlived both of the PC's I had before it. The Logic board is quickly coming to an end though and I will be getting a new one on sunday.
I had the same question. The stores got in a new macbook today which costs $999. The macbook pro costs $1199. Both the same size. Macbook has higher specs than the macbook pro. The only loss is the illuminated keyboard (i personally don't use that feature ever considering I don't look at the keys) and the aluminum casing. The aluminum casing is great except that the wireless signal with it isn't as strong. This is only an issue really at school or when I'm trying to work outside or in a house made of stucco. But it definitely takes a beating better than the plastic casing. At the same time, I take really good care of my electronics. So the aluminum isn't a huge selling point.
I have determined I will be purchasing the new macbook instead of the macbook pro at the student rate of $949 and be purchasing a 21 inch LCD as its companion for when I am at home.
I'm not a gamer but i do plenty of video editing and have never run into a problem with my 1mb ram and 2.0 ghz processor... and now I'm going to have 2mb ram and a 2.35 (i believe) ghz processor. Smaller screen, but I'm getting an LCD instead.