If the concept of extending e-commerce further into the physical world through the use of bar codes is going to take off, bar-code readers will have to be mobile.
A few months ago, my colleague Jim Rapoza torched Digital:Convergences CueCat bar-code scanner for several reasons. The scanner is designed to read bar codes placed in magazines and return additional information relating to the item paired with the bar code. In addition, the CueCat connects directly to a PC, and Rapoza pointed out that most people do not read magazines while sitting at their PCs.
A better alternative is the Qoder, a new portable bar-code reader from Qode (www.qode.com). Users can carry Qoders on key chains and scan bar codes at their convenience. Back at their desktops, they can slide the Qoder into a cradle that connects to the PC and downloads the scans. Qodes bundled software manages the code lookups.
Unlike the nosy CueCat, the Qoder does not come with a requirement that users provide personal information. But then, the Qoder costs $39.95; the CueCat is free.