Microsoft Tags Brings Barcodes to the Phone

StepOne Blog (www.StepOneSystems.com/blog/)

StepOne Systems Blog

One of the big things that cell phones really need is a way to scan barcodes.  Ideally it would be nice to scan in standard barcodes such as UPCs.  But in other cases it would be nice to just enter a single piece of information in to the phone quickely such as URLs, email addresses, etc.  This is where the Microsoft Tag will provide a good solution.

For instance, here is a Microsoft Tag for the StepOne Blog.  I can just print this barcode on my business card, or marketing collateral and a mobile user can just “snap” the image with my mobile camera and it will launch Internet Explorer and display our blog.  Very cool, and great for our marketing.

The other thing that’s very cool is that I don’t even have to print the Microsoft Tag on paper.  It will work on anything with reasonable resolution that works with a mobile camera.  The one I really like is scanning the image off of the computer monitor, but it can also scan off of the TV, movie screen, side of a bus, whatever.  This is great for getting long URLs in to the phone quickly.

Microsoft Tag Reader

To try it out, download the application from http://gettag.mobi/.  If you do this from your mobile device it will identify the correct download for your phone and provide it to you.  Alternately, you can download the application on your desktop and then transfer it to the phone yourself.

It’s also nice that Microsoft has realized that not everyone is running Windows Mobile and are providing download for a large number of phones.  The current list is: Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Java 2 Micro Edition, PalmOS, Symbian S60, Symbian S60 1st Edit, Symbian S60 2nd Edit, Symbian S60 3rd Edit, Windows Mobile.  A pretty good list.

Microsoft Tag Limitations

However the only way to “snap” a Microsoft Tag is to use the Microsoft Tag Reader.  Just looking at it I can already see potential applications that might take advantage of Microsoft Tags, but since there isn’t an SDK to work with them.  However, at NRF I spoke with some of the Microsoft Reps and they said it was under consideration.

The other limitation that I see is how the tags are processed.  What happens is Tag Reader “snaps” the tag and the data is then sent to the Microsoft Tag site which then decodes the tag and provides the information required.  This means a couple of things.  First of all, you must be connected to the Internet in order to “snap” a Microsoft Tag.  So disconnected use is out.

The other part of that restriction is that I can not dynamically generate tags on the fly.  For instance, I’d like to generate a unique tag that contains the user ID, and provide a custom tag to direct them to their web account.  However, since each tag must be created at the Microsoft Tag site this isn’t practical.

However it is very cool technology and only in Beta.  I’m looking forward to see how it will be used.

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