REDMOND, Wash. – June 2, 2010 – Matt Hester loves to find cool new technology. Keith Combs loves to find ways technology makes businesses more efficient. Together they are “Point and Click — The IT Investigators,” a new Microsoft team whose Internet radio shows are designed to help small- and medium-sized business managers understand and take advantage of the powerful new technologies available to them.
The talk-radio-type shows, in which Hester and Combs chat with real business owners about their everyday challenges, launched May 26 on the Microsoft News Center’s Small- and Medium-Sized Business virtual press kit. A new episode of Hester and Combs’s business conversations will appear roughly every two weeks.
In the inaugural program, the two talk about working remotely from a main office.
Hester is a senior IT pro evangelist based in Cincinnati. He’s a 10-year Microsoft veteran who in recent years has had the role of talking about new products and their capabilities to audiences from a dozen or so people to as many as 5,000 — “like a rock-star concert,” he says. Combs, based in Dallas, joined Microsoft in 1996 and now is a senior program manager with TechNet, Microsoft’s resource site for IT professionals. Combs says he grew up on technology — “My father was an IBM-er, and I went from pacifier to typewriter to Dictaphone at a very early age” — and sees his job as making complex technology readily understandable.
The two say their goal for the Point and Click programs is to make today’s technology more understandable to business owners and IT managers. Says Combs: “The goal is education — it’s to create a conversation about technology and educate customers about how it applies to a business, whether small or medium-sized.” Adds Hester: “I’m very passionate about the newest cool thing in technology. But that technology has to be of use, or people aren’t going to take advantage of it. I want to help people understand how cool new things can help a company make money.”
In each podcast, Combs and Hester interview a business owner, Microsoft partner or Microsoft business expert. The shows have a lively and conversational feel — both Hester and Combs are rapid-fire talkers who have worked together for years, and know how to think on their feet from their years evangelizing Microsoft products. The programs aren’t scripted. The two take a topic and a guest and are off. Hester plays the straight technology aficionado to Comb’s looser, funnier tech-speak, delivered with a hint of a drawl.
The Point and Click shows come at a time when technology for business is changing rapidly. Cloud computing, for instance, promises to make affordable high-end technology of a kind that only enterprises could use as recently as a year or two ago. “Right now a lot of small and medium-sized businesses look at that and don’t see the application,” says Hester. “But anybody can take advantage of this technology, and we want to show them how.”
Other key issues for Hester and Combs’ audience include improving security, making use of powerful new business intelligence tools, and how to work effectively without an office.
But always, the target is making powerful technology understandable to businesses that stand to gain a great deal from, but that don’t have the big IT staffs and budget to stay on top of trends. Says Hester, “I like to quote Arthur C. Clarke, who once said that ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ That’s how I view the technology we’re offering now. I want to take things such as Outlook or SharePoint and show them the business value.”