Microsoft news: Microsoft Tag released

The minds at Microsoft threw the beta off Tag, an innovative mobile phone barcode-scanning service that holds nearly limitless possibilities when it comes to . . . just about anything. Imagine touring a museum and scanning a symbol next to a painting to launch a related video. Or zapping a code at a bus stop and seeing when the next bus is coming. Picture the various creative implementations of this technology - it may all be feasible.

Microsoft Tag uses Quick Response (QR) codes, which are simply a two-dimensional barcodes that can be quickly read on a mobile phone. Since the launch of Tag 18 months ago, "more than 1 billion Tags have been printed by people and businesses all over the world. In the month of April alone, more than 20 million magazines with Tags were in the hands of U.S. consumers," Aaron Getz wrote on Microsoft's blog. "Today we can imagine a world where any physical object can become a gateway to a world of digital content and engagement: Scan a product in a newspaper, get a personalized offer, buy it on the spot, or get directions to the store to buy it later. Or, scan a poster for a play, see a preview of the performance, invite friends, and buy tickets. This is what Tag can do for you, for your users, for your marketing campaign, and for your business. All you have to do is simply click on things in your physical world to make your world interactive on the spot," Getz wrote.

Microsoft Tag lets marketers add a mobile barcode to promotional materials. Tag users can then scan the barcode via cell phone cameras and gain access to additional information about products, including videos, Web sites, reviews, schedules, contact information, social networks, discounts, and more. It's available on major carriers including Windows Mobile, J2ME, iPhone, BlackBerry, Symbian 96, and Android

When a user points a mobile code camera on a barcode the Tag client will interpret the code, and link to a variety of content. For example, Golf Digest has been using tags to let their readers access video lessons on smartphones. In Amsterdam, visitors can go on a Tag-led tour, with tags on monuments, museums, restaurants, bars, and other landmarks, according to Microsoft. In its simplest form, Tag links directly to a Web page, the blog post said.

Microsoft isn't the only company playing with barcode tech. Google and Facebook have both implemented their own iterations. At the moment, Google is using QR codes for advertisers and Facebook for user profiles, though we should expect evolution soon. QR codes aren't anything new. Launched in the late 90s, QR readers such as the laughable DigitalConvergence CueCat failed miserably and barcodes didn't lift off the ground. But since smartphones are so popular and widespread, QR barcodes stand to become far more accessible to the masses. They even made an appearance at the recent SXSW conference.

Microsoft's mobile barcode technology, Tag, has exited the beta testing phase, and a final release is available for download, the company said in a blog post on Thursday

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