TheGeekery

The Usual Tech Ramblings

Microsoft Tag, a Semi-geek Look

Back in January, Microsoft announced a new project called Tag at CES. In Microsoft’s words, Tag is:

Microsoft Tag is a marketing solution that enables consumers to access and share useful and fun content in a simple way. It also helps marketers engage with consumers in meaningful and creative ways, and to measure effectiveness.

They also call it colorful, and capable of transforming traditional marketing media. I started toying with it a little bit then, but not much until recently when they announced a new API1.

So how does it work? And how is it going to change our lives? Well the idea, as far as I can see, is its targeted at mobile audiences. A small application runs on your phone/pda/etc, and using the camera snaps a picture of the Tag. This is then sent to Microsoft and decoded. This will then take you to whatever resource the creator configured the tag for. As of now, there are several types of resources to create:

  • URL
  • Free Text
  • vCard

They are all pretty self-explanatory. When the camera picks up a tag, it triggers the application to launch various events. For example, when tested on my Moto Q9h, a vCard tag added the vCard to my address book, whilst a URL opened Internet Explorer2. A date range can be applied, as well as a title.

Now the question is, is it life changing? How about the latest movie poster you just saw, with a tiny icon in the corner, taking you to the preview movie, and how about from that same page, finding out local times? Well at least part of it is in play now, on an upcoming movie 5:13.

Not just handy for movies either. Proctor & Gamble picked it up in Turkey for a contest for Head & Shoulders™. BestBuy also pulled out the stops on their “Live Tour” truck, shown in the Tag showcase.

How about business cards? There is quite often a fair bit of information you can provide on a business card, name, address, title, phone, fax, email, and that’s just the basics. Now include a small image, and your clients can scan the card into their phone. Want to change the details but can’t get time to get new cards before that major conference you just got sent to? That’s fine, you can update the vCard associated with the Tag.

Want to know how small you can go? The tiny image to the left actually works on my phone. It’s sized at 33 pixels square. That’s something else I’ve noticed about Tag compared to the traditional barcodes3, blurry doesn’t matter, and detection of a Tag is incredibly fast. This is all being done using HCCB (Even more cool, black and white works too).

Being a Microsoft product, some people are probably wondering if it’s limited to Windows, and Windows Mobile devices. Not at all. Microsoft seem to think this is a great technology, and a brilliant idea for future marketing and media. So they released an iPhone reader too.

So will I use it? Probably play with it for a bit, see what I can get out of it, see if it is viable for anything at work. I’ve already created a couple to play with, the one above, and the one to the right.

The potential is there, now to see if anybody exploits the technology, and pushes it to the limits. Next time you’re looking at a movie poster, see if it got Tagged.

Keep following the project for more news, I suspect it might actually get quite popular. The folks even have a Twitter profile setup, as well as a blog.


  1. Something I’ve been meaning to check out

  2. A Microsoft feature seeing as IE is not my default browser on my phone

  3. This includes the QRCode, and Datamatrix barcodes that people like USPS, UPS, and FedEx uses

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