As you are already aware, OIT is leading an initiative for Google Apps at the U of M. The most significant offering is the Google Mail system, or GMail. Converting to Google means your email will migrate from U of M email servers to Google's GMail servers.
The full list of Google Apps available at the U of M includes: GMail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Talk. Note that Google Calendar is not intended to replace UMCal for staff.
We've started sharing access to certain OIT staff already, and will continue to expand the offering across OIT in the coming weeks.
I converted to GMail last night. One thing I will recommend to anyone who converts to Google Mail: let it run overnight. Don't expect to work on email while the conversion is running. (You may also want to go through your email beforehand, to delete any emails you no longer need. This helps to speed up the migration.)
It worked!! I'm on UMN Google Mail. It's great! I really do find the GMail interface makes it a lot easier for me to quickly sort through all my email, especially because it groups all conversations into a single item (and displays them all at once.) This will make it a lot easier for me to stay up to date.
I'm using the web interface. You can also connect using a regular email client (such as Thunderbird) but you'll need to set up a GMail client password at Dirtools.
Google Apps at the U of M is an opt-in service. You do not need to convert to Google Apps - you will still be able to access your email from the U of M servers, just like normal. However, we encourage those who are willing to make the change - use Google Apps, and give us feedback (via the online survey - you'll get a link to this in your "Welcome to Google Apps" email.)