Microsoft Tag can connect your mobile device to online content

Microsoft issued a press release this week promoting Microsoft Tag -- a simple, convenient new service for delivering content to camera phones and other mobile devices.

The new Tag service is currently in Beta and available for anybody to use for free. I encourage the reader to try it for themselves, or at least try the test I've set up here on this page (see below).

A "Tag" is basically just a barcode that links to something useful. You scan or photograph the Tag on your mobile device. Your mobile device then displays whatever content the Tag leads to.

An example you can try yourself:

I’ve set up this example (below) which you can try on your own mobile phone, right now, if it has a camera and web access. Go to the web site at on your mobile phone, download the software app (if in doubt try the unsigned Java version), and then use the app to scan the image to see what happens. Enjoy!

Microsoft Tag: use your mobile phone to scan this barcode

After you've tried my demo (above) -- if you want to create your own Microsoft Tag barcodes, to send mobile users to your own content -- simply visit the official website, sign in, and create a tag. When creating a tag, you will enter the details of a "link" which you want the tag to take people. The link could be a URL to a page on your web site to be displayed, or a phone number to dial, or something else. The web site will generate or "render" a tag for you to download as a picture for you to print. (You could display it on screen as I have below, although I don't think this is quite what Microsoft had in mind.) Now, anybody in the world can scan or photograph your tag on their mobile phone, and their phone will do the rest -- for example displaying your web page or even dialing your phone-number.

Tags and barcodes are very simple, yet very powerful, as a way of linking to rich content or activating other specific functionalities. I predict that the characteristic coloured triangles of Microsoft Tag barcodes will soon become an increasingly familiar sight. Perhaps it's the Mark of the Beast. Expect to see a lot more of these "High Capacity Color Barcode" icons around in the near future -- in print in newspapers/magazines/books, on billboards, on the web, on TV, on products in shops, on t-shirts -- everywhere!

17 September 2009

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Tim Acheson (17 Sep 09, 21:12)

At this point in time, the top headline on the technology page of the BBC News web site is the a story about the first ever video advert on a printed page. A moving video advert has been placed on the cover of this month's edition of Entertainment Weekly magazine in the USA -- but only on a limited number of the magazines. Until recently technology like this seemed like science fiction or magic. It's like the fictional Daily Prophet newspaper in Harry Potter!

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” - Arthur C. Clarke’s third law of prediction (from the man who predicted satellites in one of his sci-fi books long before most scientists believed it was possible)

Putting moving or interactive advertisements on the pages of newspapers or magazines remains prohibitively expensive. In the meantime, Tag technology is the next best thing. Microsoft Tag provides a very convenient way to direct people to rich content online. It works on my three-year-old old Sony Ericsson mobile, and so does YouTube. If the technology works on my oldest handset, it will surely work on just about anything.

On my way to work each day as I read the newspaper, I routinely see news stories for which a video is available on the newspaper’s web site. I’ll be phoning the Metro first thing tomorrow morning to suggest that they try Microsoft’s Tag service while it’s free.


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