George Mason University is upgrading all of its computer labs and classrooms by fall 2012 with Windows 7, the latest operating system from Microsoft.

According to Mike Fletcher, Mason’s manager of Computing Services, all classrooms and labs on the Prince William and the Arlington campuses already have the Windows 7 upgrade.  In Fairfax, the Innovation 301 lab is the only room on campus in which Windows 7 is in use.

Although the upgrade will only apply to the university’s labs, Fletcher said, “Some colleges run and maintain departmental classrooms, and many of these departments have already made the upgrade to Windows 7.”

“We want to be a cutting edge university, and here we’re running an operating system that was originally released in 2001,”Fletcher said in reference to Windows XP.

Mason currently runs Windows XP, but the software lacks certain compatibilities because its regular support with Microsoft expired in 2009. The operating system is running on extended support with Microsoft.  Having Windows XP is problematic, Fletcher said, because Microsoft seems reluctant to help users if technical difficulties arise since they are mainly focused on the current software.

According to Fletcher, Windows 7 will provide a greater experience because Mason will be able to provide a higher level of support.  Most of Mason’s software programs are designed to operate adequately with Windows 7.

According to Fletcher, the upgrade is going to be free because Mason is automatically covered under a university agreement it has with Microsoft.

There is wide speculation that the new Windows 8 upgrade is to be released in October 2012.  When asked why Mason could not wait roughly six more months for the possible new release instead, Fletcher said he felt it was best to get the current system updated quickly and contend with future improvements at a later time.

The process of the upgrade is going to be completely invisible to the users, Fletcher said.  Starting fall 2012, however, students will be the ultimate judges of whether Windows 7 improves the classroom experience.

“We must maintain a very generic system to meet all types of classes from math and science to English and philosophy,” Fletcher said.