I'm giving serious thought to switching our school to Google Apps from our current ISP's email system this coming summer. Only teachers and staff have access to district email right now; the switch would provide students, teachers, and staff with school email accounts and access to the suite of Google Applications, enabling easier integration of home and school work, as well as secure, archived communications (Google Apps can now provide FRCP-compliant archiving at $8.50/year/user for educational institutions).
Our users are generally dissatisfied with the current webmail interface (it really is kludgy) and we're adding outside collaboration tools all the time. Students as well are increasingly looking for ways to easily work at home, the public library, during class, and before/after school. While flash drives are fine, they do pose security risks. VPN infrastructures take time and money while roaming profiles take a toll on performance (at least in terms of startup and shutdown). Of course, this begs the question, why not just host everything in the cloud?
Given the maturity of Google Apps, I can't see a good reason not to. I know that Google Apps won't meet the needs of our secretaries. We have OpenOffice and Office 2007/2008 for the few secretaries who are real power users and the occasional staff member who needs to deal with very large documents and fine-grained formatting. However, from my perspective, there is nothing that it can't handle quite well for students and teachers.
Turning in a paper? Just make sure your teacher is a collaborator on the document and they can review and comment online. Need to make a presentation? The entire class can log in and ask questions online as you go using Google Presentations. You can't teach Excel macros, but we should simply be teaching kids to use spreadsheets rather than a particular tool. We can (and should) teach programming elsewhere.
Better yet, all accounts would include access to Blogger; shared calendars; a website builder; voice, text, and video chat; and all of the anti-spam and antivirus technology built into Gmail.
And, of course, all of this (except the archiving service) is free (no ads, either) for educational institutions.
For me, this seems like a no-brainer for testing in the spring and full rollout in the fall. Am I missing something?