Microsoft Introduces Barcode-Reader App for Google Android

Microsoft unveiled Microsoft Tag for Google Android, which allows users to scan a customized tag with their smartphone's camera module and receive multimedia and other content on their screen. Although Microsoft is contesting fiercely with Google, Apple and other companies in the smartphone space, it evidently recognizes the opportunities to spread its products to as many users as possible by creating applications for its rivals' mobile app storefronts. Google has also introduced a barcode-scanning system that leverages its own software.

Microsoft and Google may be competitors in a number of areas, notably search and smartphone operating systems, but Microsoft nonetheless seems determined to port a number of its mobile applications onto Google Android. The latest in this trend, announced on March 3, is Microsoft Tag, which uses a smartphone's camera module to "read" a customized tag on a product or piece of paper and deliver multimedia connected to that tag, be it video, social networking application or a Website.

Microsoft seems intent on spreading the technology as widely as possible, even if that means leveraging a rival smartphone OS.

"It's important to give more people access to Tag because there's huge demand for reliable mobile barcoding-businesses and consumers are eager to find creative ways to use their phone and hyperlink the real world," Benjamin Gauthey, a member of the Microsoft Tag team, wrote in a March 3 posting on the official Microsoft Tag blog. "We want to make this easier, so over the next few months we're making changes to our Website-such an including many more ways to learn about and experience Tag and get inspired by how others are using Tag today-to help better meet the needs of our Tag community."

Microsoft Tag is already compatible with BlackBerry, iPhone, Symbian and Windows Mobile phones, making Google Android the next logical step. Presumably, Microsoft's upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series will also be Tag-capable, although such announcements will likely have to wait until Microsoft's Mix 10 developer conference later in March, if not the new mobile operating system's release at some undefined point later in 2010.

Other IT companies have recognized the potential benefits of integrating real-world barcodes and tags into their online services. In December, Google announced a "Favorite Places on Google" initiative that lets business owners place a barcode, or QR code, on their storefronts. Passerby and customers can then scan that code with their iPhone, Android device, or BlackBerry in order to receive information such as menus or a coupon.

"For Android-powered devices, including the Droid by Motorola, we recommend using the free Barcode Scanner app," Ryan Hayward and David Kim, product marketing managers for Google, wrote in a December 12 posting on the Official Google Blog. "For iPhone, we have found the $1.99 QuickMark app to work best, and starting today, we're partnering with QuickMark to offer the app for free for the first 40,000 downloads."

Microsoft and Google obviously recognize that making their smartphones more universally useful, in as many contexts as possible, will ultimately translate into market-share and revenue for both of them.