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Microsoft Launches 'Tag' Beta


Microsoft Launches 'Tag' Beta

Microsoft chose the aftermath of CES to launch slightly less hyped product debut than that of Windows 7 Beta, Microsoft Tag Beta - which it dubs a "colorful {sic} leap forward in mobile barcode technology." From a technical stance at least, Tag might just be of more interest to some of you reading this than a preview version of Microsoft's latest OS.

Underpinned by what Microsoft dubs High Capacity Color {sic} Barcodes (HCCBs), Tag is, at base, a fairly simple system allowing a printed image to be translated by a camera phone to a URL. Microsoft's Tag format uses a system of coloured triangles, enabling larger amounts of data to be stored in the same space as black and white would facilitate.

Microsoft has also been smart enough to realise that, in order for its Tag system to be of any use, it needs to work even if the camera taking the photo of the Tag is rubbish. That, let's face it, being the case in the majority of phones. Some clever error correction algorithms ensure than even damaged tags may well still be readable, which is pretty neat. Microsoft also reckons that the small 5/8in square size of its Tags make them better suited to the environments they're proposed for use in.

Interestingly, having had a play with the backend on the Tag Beta, Microsoft doesn't seem to be generating tags using any sort of algorithm. Rather, at creation the Tag image is associated to a Live account and can then have its associated web address changed by the Tag 'owner' with Microsoft's servers acting as a router between Tag and destination URL.

Being mobile-centric the applications are, admittedly fairly limited. While printing a Tag onto a business card allowing quick forwarding to a website containing more information than can fit on a small piece of card sounds pretty cool, there's only so much browsing anyone wants to do on a phone.

Kudos to Microsoft, though, for supporting a huge range of devices, including all Windows Mobile 5 and 6 phones, the BlackBerry Bold and 81xx, 83xx series devices, Apple's iPhone, J2ME enabled handsets and Symbian S60 phones.

Curious? Why not try out Microsoft Tag Beta on the thumbnail image above and see where it takes you.


Microsoft Tag.

Lee Marshall

January 13, 2009, 11:28 pm

That works really well, I am amazed by how quickly it can process the image. I have already created my own tags and applied them to a mailshot I am creating. Well done MS!


January 13, 2009, 11:43 pm

i could swear i've seen this on some old xbox game covers before


January 14, 2009, 12:02 am

So the tag doesn't really encode any substantive data (unlike a QR tag) - it is just an identifier that looks up the underlying data on an MS server (hence why you need a live data connection; and hence why the destination URL/dialer/text/business card). That explains why it can be so much smaller and relatively simpler than a QR code. Only drawbacks are (a) you need a live data connection - not too much of a problem for URLs, might be annoying for vCards etc.; (b) MS gets to track every single time a tag is scanned; and (c) if someone has access to your Live account, he can change the underlying data.


January 14, 2009, 1:08 am

ilovethemonkeyhead - It does look rather like a retro performer doesn't it :)


January 14, 2009, 3:15 pm

I don't get it. Could someone please explain what should I do with the image? Thanks (sorry for being so dumb).


January 14, 2009, 9:04 pm

I clicked on the thumbnail and it cusriosly took me nowhere.

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