Microsoft Tag Reader For iPhone

Microsoft debuted its iPhone applications called Tag Reader. In brief, Tag Reader is an iPhone application that lets you snap and decode a Microsoft Tag. First, before I show you Microsoft’s Tag Reader, what’s Microsoft Tag? The small and colorful tag with triangular shape shown you above is an example of the Microsoft Tag. Microsoft Tag is actually a kind of barcode, that you see in nearly every product labels in daily life, but in 2-dimensional format. 2-dimensional barcode is not a new thing. QR code is another examples of 2D barcode, that is very popular in Japan.

Microsoft Tag is created and developed by Microsoft Research. At first glance, the look is very much like QR code, but is much smaller and with colour. Technically, Microsoft is based on its self-invented technology known as High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCBs). The technology is developed from ground-up and designed specifically for camera on mobile device. So, even out-of-focus images can be decoded. Tags can be included on all kinds of material: newspaper, magazine, vCards, T-shirts, magnets, online displays and even dog tags.

How Microsoft Tags Works

Unlike other 2D barcode technologies, however, Microsoft Tag doesn’t store the actual information inside the barcode. Instead, it just stores an unique identifier (ID) which is used for fetching the actual information from Microsoft server. So, the tag can store much more information compared to other kinds of 2D barcode. But that means, to use Microsoft Tag, your iPhone should have Internet connection either via WiFi or 3G/EDGE.

Advertised as “Connecting Real Life with Digital World”, you can snap a Tag using your iPhone with Tag Reader installed. Tag Reader will automatically decode the tag and show you the information inside. The information can be a URL, vCard, phone number, map location or just plain text. Base on the kind of information, Tag Readre calls up the associated actions, such as open a browser URL, launching a map to show you the location or dial the decoded phone number for you right away. The video will illustrate how Microsoft Tag can be used (but not using iPhone):

Reading Microsoft Tag With Tag Reader

Back to iPhone, let’s take a look Tag Reader, the second iPhone application from Microsoft. Tag Reader is very simple to use. Once launch, just a tap “Tap to start” and snap a Tag. It’ll automatically decode the information inside and launch the associated actions, such as opening a URL in browser, show you a text message or dial a number.

The decoding process is fast and as tested, it can decode images that are slightly out-of-focus. The Tag Reader also caches those tags they’re decoded before. You can always tap “History” to access all the tags you have snapped and used before.

Microsoft’s Tag Reader is available on App Store for free. You can download and install it by point your mobile Safari at Or you can download it directly at this iTunes link.

Create Your Own Tag

Come together with the iPhone application, you can also access Microsoft Tags Website to create your own Microsoft Tag. Creating a tag using the tool is very straightforward. By now, you can only create four types of tag including URL (launch browser directly), plain text, vCard (electronic business card) and dialer (call a number). For each tag you create, you are allowed to assign tag title, start date/end date for campaign and even a password to protect it. Once the tag is created, you can render and download in various formats (WMF, XPS & PDF).

The website also lets you organize your own tags into different categories and provides a reporting tool to show you how often your tags are scanned. This feature is really great for any marketing campaign and you can’t easily find in other 2D barcode technologies.

Here are a few sample tags I created (Try to snap with Tag Reader!):

Microsoft Tag - Free Text

Microsoft Tags - vCard lets you easily add contact

Microsoft Tag - Open URL in Safari directly

[Images Are Via Microsoft Tag]

Will Microsoft Tag Succeed?

As said, 2D barcode is not a new thing. QR code has been around for more than ten years but it’s not still very prevalent in most countries except in Japan. One crucial success factor for QR code in Japan is the advance use of mobile devices and its well-developed mobile infrastructure. Nearly all mobile phones are pre-installed with QR reader. It’s already there when you purchased a mobile phone. And, QR code is everywhere in Japan. As you travel in Japan, you can easily check bus schedule by snapping a QR code at bus stop.

Microsoft has made its first step right. The tag reader application is available for most mobile platforms including iPhone, Windows Mobile, J2ME, Blackberry, and Symbian S60 phones. But it’s just the first step. As you can see from the technology, it required an Internet connection to decode the tag information. Without Internet, it’s just a useless image. Can you easily access Internet from your mobile easily and for free or very low-cost?

Also, where is the Microsoft Tag?

I’ve download the iPhone application and played around with it for around two days. That’s it. I haven’t seen any Microsoft Tag in my country yet and probably yours. I won’t remove the application from my iPhone (there is still space for it). Let’s see how this product goes in the next two years.

Will you use Microsoft Tag or other 2D barcode? Some thinks it's useless. Of course, some see the potential and think it’s huge. Also, what do you think about Microsoft’s second iPhone application? For more information about Microsoft Tags, you can check out The Official Microsoft Tags Website. And For more information about QR code, you can refer to the earlier about QR Reader For iPhone.

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