June 3, 2010, 6:55 PM

Microsoft Tag system ready for the world

The free system uses 2-D bar codes, which link users to mobile sites.

Lead Photo

The Microsoft Tag 2-D bar code

In January 2009 Microsoft Corp. unveiled the beta version of Microsoft Tag. The free mobile system enables businesses or individuals to create, display and scan 2-D bar codes, which when scanned by a web-enabled mobile phone’s camera automatically sends a consumer to a mobile web page populated by a variety of forms of content.

1-D bar codes present lines vertically and contain little information. 2-D bar codes present a black-and-white or color image vertically and horizontally and can contain much more information than their 1-D counterparts.

Microsoft Tag is now officially out of beta and available at Tag.Microsoft.com and on mobile devices at GetTag.mobi and in smartphone app stores. Retailers can use the bar code system in a variety of ways. For example, a merchant could include a bar code on a print or web display ad that when scanned leads the reader to a video demonstration or the ability to purchase the advertised product. Or it could include a bar code on merchandise tags in-store to lead a shopper to the relevant customer reviews page on its m-commerce site. And merchants can customize 2-D bar codes to include brand imagery.

LionsGate Entertainment used Microsoft Tag to promote its current release, The Gamer. The company distributed tattoos incorporating tags that people can wear. When a consumer holds his camera above the tag, the mobile phone app links him to more information about the movie.

“Since Tag launched in January 2009, more than one billion tags have been created by people and businesses all over the world. In the month of April 2010 alone, more than 20 million magazines with tags were in the hands of U.S. consumers,” a Microsoft spokeswoman says.

Microsoft Tag supports most web-enabled smartphones and many web-enabled standard phones. Compared to conventional barcodes, Microsoft tags can be created in a much smaller size, can be read faster and can be read under a wider range of lighting conditions, the company says.

For now Microsoft is not making any money off of the free system. However, it plans to offer special services to businesses, including retailers, to enhance the system.

“Based on feedback we’ve heard from businesses using Microsoft Tag,” the spokeswoman says, “we plan to offer the ability to create richer, more powerful, and more effective solutions and experiences through a variety of fee-based, value-added services, such as advanced reporting and analytics and real-time location services. We will add these and other value-added features over time.”

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