2D Barcode Wars – Microsoft Tag

You have probably seen that 2D barcoding has become really trendy in the consumer world, being used for all kinds of interactive mobile marketing.

When this got going, a year or so ago, there were two types of barcode that were being used – Datamatrix and QR Code. While Datamatrix continues to be hugely popular for industrial applications, QR Code seems to be the winner in the mobile marketing space. Indeed, just as Google became the noun for Internet search, QR Code is often taken to be the generic term for Interactive Mobile 2D Barcoding.

There is an alternative for QR Code however, the rather interesting Microsoft Tag.

What makes MS Tag special is the fact that it can be printed in multiple colours and can be put together in a creative way. The downside is that it is proprietary and there is limited reader support at the moment.

The codes can only be created on Microsft’s Tag site and every scan is recorded on Microsoft’s servers. Personally, I much prefer to be able to encode barcodes myself and not have a third party’s tracking tags involved.

There is little reader support for Microsoft Tag so far. I’m not aware of any POS or industrial readers beingvCard Microsoft Tagable to handle this, and there is only one iPhone reader app (the Microsoft one of course) compared to many reader apps for QR and Datamatrix codes.

The fact that the MS Tag code can be colorful and customized (see the MS Tag version of my vCard) means it can be an attractive option for print marketing. In our industry, our friends at ScanSource have been playing with MS Tag in their print ads and for conference badges.

So Microsoft have certainly been able to get some attention with this idea. Will it become mainstream and a threat to the QR Code? Remains to be seen, but Microsoft Tag does give more options to creative designers.

If you have a Microsoft Tag reader in your smartphone, see if you can read my custom tag. I can read it with my iPhone, but it takes longer to read than the standard Microsoft version. I think some fine tuning is needed.

Do you use 2D barcodes for non-industrial applications? If so, which codes do you use? Is Microsoft Tag a novelty or a serious option?

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