Microsoft Tag Technology Graduates from Beta

Microsoft Tag, which allows users to scan a customized tag with a smartphone camera to receive multimedia and other content, is no longer at the beta stage. Although the basic use of Tag is free, Microsoft will offer other services such as advanced reporting, analytics and real-time location services that will likely cost a fee of some sort. Tag is compatible with BlackBerry, iPhone, Symbian, Google Android and Windows Mobile phones.

Microsoft announced May 27 that its Tag technology, which allows users to scan a customized tag with a smartphone's camera module and receive multimedia and other content on their screen, is no longer a beta.

"Eighteen months ago we launched Microsoft Tag, our mobile barcode technology," Aaron Getz, general manager of Microsoft Tag, wrote May 27 on the Official Microsoft Blog. "Since then, more than 1 billion Tags have been printed by people and businesses all over the world. In the month of April alone, more than 20 million magazines with Tags were in the hands of U.S. consumers."

The basic use of Tag, Getz added, will be free: "This means you will be able to generate and use Tags that link to our standard scenarios, such as linking directly to Web pages, and use the reader application at no cost." However, he said, Microsoft intends to create "value-added services, such as advanced reporting and analytics and real-time location services." At least a portion of these, presumably, will be on a paid basis.

Microsoft Tag is already compatible with BlackBerry, iPhone, Symbian and Windows Mobile phones. In March, Microsoft announced that Google Android would be the next smartphone operating system integrated with the service. One assumes that Microsoft's upcoming Windows Phone 7 will also be Tag-enabled.

Other IT companies have recognized the benefits of integrating real-world barcodes and tags into their online services. In December 2009, Google announced a "Favorite Places on Google" initiative that lets business owners place a barcode, or QR code, on their storefronts. Those codes can then be scanned with an iPhone, Android device or BlackBerry in order to receive information such as menus or a coupon.

"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 to the real world," Benjamin Gauthey, a member of the Microsoft Tag team, wrote March 3 on the official Microsoft Tag blog.

Microsoft's decision to spread the technology as widely as possible, including to rival smartphone operating systems, is suggestive of its hopes for Tag in the future. Tag has a dedicated Website.