Windows 8 Convertible: My 3-Month Test Drive
"My employees laughed [because] I told them that the computer reminded me of George Clooney -- you just kind of look and say: Ooh, I want that," Bell said in an interview. "It just looked so wonderful in the commercials."
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But Bell's not in show business. Her seven-person company, In Every Language, is in the global translation industry. Windows 8 couldn't just skate by on a handsome face. It had to get results.
Bell's business case for Windows 8 was relatively straightforward. She and two of her employees are on the road up to three weeks every month, and the travel is often international. Bell was looking for a single piece of hardware that was both lightweight and versatile, able to handle a rigorous workload and also the long-form content creation best-suited for a traditional laptop or desktop. The latter requirement, according to Bell, is a key reason why Apple's iPad hasn't become a go-to business tool in her industry. Another is that the industry is largely Windows-based.
[ Want more on Lenovo's Windows 8 offerings? Read CES 2013: Lenovo Bets Big On Windows 8. ]
When Microsoft's marketing machine kicked into high gear around the launch of Windows 8, Bell took note. Beyond the Clooney-esque appeal, she was intrigued by the growing number of convertible devices -- part laptop or ultrabook, part tablet -- hitting the market, including Microsoft's own Surface Pro. There were several substantive reasons that a convertible model -- sometimes dubbed a hybrid or transformer -- and its built-in keyboard seemed like a great fit for Bell's needs. That was all the more true because she's not a fan of having multiple computers and mobile devices to fit multiple needs.
For one, Bell's a self-professed workaholic, and there are some times and places where an open laptop is a tad awkward -- like while you're standing on an airplane on-ramp waiting to board your flight. "I don't know if you've ever tried to board a plane with your laptop open but it's very, very cumbersome," Bell said. "The stewardesses and the gate agent yell at you. It's [also] quite easy to break the monitor that way."
A convertible's ability to resemble both the laptop and the tablet in different modes appeared to be the answer. "If I could just flip it around to tablet mode and then keep on working, I wouldn't have to turn it off until we were getting ready to take off," Bell said. "That's five, 10, 15 more minutes of work I can get [done]. That's the utilitarian reason why I wanted it."
The Clooney factor had a business purpose, too: Bell believed a Windows 8 convertible would pack serious star power in sales meetings, conferences and other kinds of public and private meetings. The translation industry generally stays current with technology, according to Bell, and appearances sometimes matter. "I thought it would impress our clients to walk in with the latest technology," she said.
So Bell took the plunge. She knew she wanted a full version of Windows 8, and she quickly ruled out Surface RT and other devices running RT. Still, Bell found the hardware choices confusing and difficult to find reliable reviews on; ultimately, her purchase decision was driven by an attractive deal. Like many small businesses, she bought at retail. She seized upon an online Black Friday offer to purchase Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga 13, which typically runs upward of $1,000. Bell resisted the urge to go ahead and buy one for each of her employees in spite of a good deal, catching herself by surprise -- while the CEO said her firm is doing well and can afford the technology it needs, she remains frugal when it comes to capital expenditures and rarely passes up a discount. But she wanted to test the Yoga herself for several months to ensure it would get the job done. If the CEO deemed it up to snuff, it would become the single device of choice for the firm's two other road warriors, if not the entire staff.