Microsoft to Mobile Device Users: 'Tag, You're It'

A year and a half after it entered beta test, Microsoft's color barcode system for mobile devices -- simply dubbed "Tag" -- officially hit "general availability" on Thursday.

Referred to by Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) as "barcodes-on-steroids," the technology lets users hover their mobile phones over a code, whether in a magazine, on a product package, or on a car, and link to further information.

The type of information served up can include a variety of things, from interactive video home tours for a real estate site to restaurant reviews to promotional offers for products.

"Today we're announcing that Tag is coming out of beta and that basic use of Tags will be free of charge. This means you will be able to generate and use Tags that link to our standard scenarios, such as linking directly to web pages, and use the reader application at no cost," Aaron Getz, general manager for Microsoft Tag, said in a post to the Official Microsoft Blog.

Getz went on to claim that one billion tags have been printed by advertisers and consumers in the past 18 months, and that 20 million magazines with tags in them reached consumers just in the month of April. Tag has been used in fields such as publishing, advertising, retail, real estate, transit, automotive, consumer packaged goods, tourism, and entertainment, his post continued.

Microsoft also said that it will continue to enhance Tags going forward with new value-added features, including real-time location services as well as advanced reporting and analytics.

In addition, social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter already have Microsoft Tag communities.

"Whether it's Golf Digest demonstrating the perfect swing, Fearless Records connecting fans to new music and info about their favorite bands, 'Avatar' showcasing its movie trailer, or a Tag on your morning box of Wheaties, Tag is increasingly making the world around us clickable," Getz said.

Microsoft is not the only company looking at using mobile devices to read barcodes, however.

For instance, last summer, Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) introduced an app for Android-based phones that lets mobile users scan barcodes on items and upload them to Amazon.

Additionally, Apple's iTunes App Store offers barcode reading apps that run on the iPhone so that users can do comparison shopping for items they're interested in buying.

Of course, Tags has a much wider charter than merely price comparisons and has Microsoft's financial and marketing muscle behind it -- but as the company has proven time and again, that doesn't always add up to success and market dominance.

More information is available at Microsoft's Tag Website.

Microsoft's Tags application is available for Windows Mobile, Android, BlackBerry, and the iPhone.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Microsoft, mobile, mobile device, barcode, Tag