Windows 8 Convertible: My 3-Month Test Drive

The CEO of a small translation business shares her lessons learned in three months using a Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga Windows 8 convertible.

Kevin Casey, Contributor

March 6, 2013

7 Min Read

Mobile World Congress 2013: 9 Hot Gadgets

Mobile World Congress 2013: 9 Hot Gadgets

Mobile World Congress 2013: 9 Hot Gadgets(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

CEO Terena Bell first became interested in Microsoft's Windows 8 for a timeless reason: It was good-looking.

"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."

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. Three months later, Bell reached a disappointing conclusion about Windows 8: "It's just not ready for prime time," she said. Issues with the Yoga's "tent mode" -- the ability to stand up the tablet display for presentations and similar purposes -- top her list, because that feature was one of the primary appeals of the convertible in the first place. Bell found several applications didn't properly flip or "stuck" in tent mode, rendering the image upside-down to the viewer. Skype videoconferences -- In Every Language is a heavy user of the app for staff meetings and presentations because it's a virtual office -- were a regular problem, and Bell ultimately had to leave the device in laptop mode so that people's faces weren't upside-down.

"What was the point in me paying $200 to $600 more than I would have for a laptop to have something I could put in tent [mode] so that it looks nice in presentations if I can't use the tent mode?" Bell said. Bell's firm is also a heavy Dropbox user for both internal and external file sharing, syncing and backup. She said she ran into regular problems syncing files from the Windows 8-based Yoga and has had to uninstall and reinstall the app multiple times, ultimately to no avail. "Dropbox [does not work well] on it," Bell said. "You might as well not even have Dropbox because it makes it [run] as a [Windows 8] app as opposed to being able to get into it as though it were a file folder."

Some of Bell's experience speaks to a fact of life for many small businesses: They don't have an IT department for things like application testing, troubleshooting and similar tasks that come with a significant technology change such as Windows 8. "I am admittedly not an IT person," Bell said. Therein lies a challenge for Microsoft in getting small businesses to adopt Windows 8. Small-business owners often have less time, inclination or technical know-how for getting under the hood to tweak and customize settings, application preferences and other features.

Among other relatively minor items that nagged Bell: Having to sign in to Windows with a Microsoft account. She used her long-abandoned Hotmail credentials, but did so begrudgingly. She has also found Windows updates to be more intrusive -- her older laptop runs Vista, and she is accustomed to the pop-up prompt that enables the user to postpone the automatic update for up to four hours.

"Were I only using the computer for personal stuff, [the updates are] no big deal," Bell said. "But if I’m presenting in front of 100 people at an international conference, not so much."

The Clooney comparison held up in her day-to-day usage -- the retooled, touch-centric Windows UI had advantages beyond just looking good. "The Web browsing on it is incredible," Bell said, adding that the touch functionality was a big plus in this regard. "But like most business owners, I don't want to pay $1,000 for a Web browser."

"Business owner" is the operative phrase here. Much of Bell's disappointment with Windows 8 stems from high hopes borne of a form factor that seemed tailor made for her job. She has found, though, that the underlying OS -- especially on an out-of-the-box device purchased at retail -- would be much better-suited for use at home. "The [convertible] set-up seemed perfect. But in reality, it’s as though we’ve paid for a very expensive game console," Bell said. For personal use, she said, "it's great -- if I want to watch TV on it at night or whatever. I just don't think it's fit for business. I don't think they even made it for us."

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About the Author(s)

Kevin Casey


Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses.

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