My netbook is hooked to a proper keyboard/mouse/monitor 80% of the time, so, for me, the quality of the keyboard is less crucial than you would expect. On the other hand, proper support for external monitors from linux is crucial. I don't know how thinkpads fare in that regard. The trackpoint is actually a little question mark for me. I tried it for a few minutes and I didn't like it, so I'd have to hope that I can get used to it. You could say that I'm looking more for something that is very convenient to move from place to place rather than something that is used mostly on the road. Thinkpads are solid contenders, but it's not so clear cut for my usage.
As for skrewing things up trying to install linux, chromebooks look pretty good in that regard. If I got it right, the firmware has the ability to recover Chrome OS from a USB flash drive, and the disk image is just free for anyone to download; no registration / license nonsense.
Finger crossed, my netbook will still keep working for a few months more, so, yeah, waiting after Christmas is a good idea. To be honest, I'm not an early adopter myself and this would be an exception for me.