Microsoft Tag is a service by which you can create a barcode, which you can use to convey a URL, a free-text message or contact details. You then use a piece of software on your mobile phone to read this tag, and it will either visit that URL, display the message, or show you the contact details.
This is an example of a Microsoft Tag:
And by scanning this barcode (using software from Microsoft that only reads Microsoft Tag barcodes, and is the only software that can) it will take you to the Microsoft Tag website.
This is the equivalent barcode in the Datamatrix format:
This is the equivalent barcode in the Quick Response format:
Quick Response codes, incidentally, have been seen recently on the side of Pepsi cans in a recent promotion.
But my question is this: Why, when there are already established standards for 2D barcodes, has Microsoft come along and created a brand new one that is a) not as easy to create, b) not as easy to use and c) closed-standard.
This is yet another example of Microsoft wanting to get in to an existing market by redefining the existing standards. Yes, I know that’s what an open market is, allowing anyone to compete with anyone at any level, but why are they playing catch-up now? Why didn’t they either come in to the party when everyone else did, or at least make it as easy to use as the other standards?
As it stands, you need Microsoft software and a Microsoft Live ID to be able to generate and read these codes, plus they only output the codes in PDF, WMF or XPS format... hardly web-friendly! What I will say in support of Microsoft Tag, is that the codes are in colour, and the software works on a lot of mobile phone platforms!!
At least with QR and Datamatrix, there are open sites where you can create these barcodes, and even generate them on the fly through parameters in a URL... this is what I did on my own website. And there are many software packages for many mobile phone platforms that will read both of these code standards, and more!
Have a go and see how easy it is to create your own codes:
QR Code creator