I have been fiddling around with 2D barcodes for a little over a year and recently came across Microsoft’s offering known as Microsoft Tag (Beta).
Microsoft Tag is a high capacity color barcode that uses triangles instead of the more common squares used in other 2D barcodes including QR codes. Not unlike other 2D barcode solutions, the tag is essentially a web link; the reader decodes the Microsoft Tag, sends the URL to a resolution server that returns a URL containing the content, which triggers the mobile phone’s browser to load the page. Microsoft Tag seems to be proprietary technology.
Common issues facing 2D barcode solutions provider are :
– size of the code itself
– decode accuracy and speed
– speed of resolution server in returning content URL
– system compatibility of client software on a wide range of mobile handset models
I started by downloading the client reader onto my iPhone and had no problems. I then proceeded to creating a code for testing, which again was problem-free (see issues about this below). I launched the app on my iPhone and the reader automatically detected and decoded the 2D barcode without having to perform the normal i) frame, ii) take snapshot of code, iii) decode, and iv) resolve process. This is not unlike i-Nigma’s client reader on the Symbian S60 platform. The decoding and resolution were both speedy. The reader was not fussy about framing, lighting or size of code within the reader’s window. I was impressed with the overall performance.
Generating the code from Microsoft’s website was simple and quick but the output options are limited and odd I would think. The website offers exporting the code as either pdf, wmf, or xps format with sizes ranging from 0.75 to 120 inches. I would have preferred saving the code as either jpg or png – this is much simpler and more direct for majority of users.
My preliminary experience with Microsoft Tag was promising. Microsoft’s website offers users to the ability to create tags quite easily, and provides graphic reports on how many times the code (i.e. Microsoft Tag) has been clicked on / decoded.
According to Microsoft’s website, the client reader supports a wide range of devices including iPhone, Symbian S60 3rd edition platforms, phones supporting J2ME, Windows Mobile 5 and 6 as well as a few Blackberry handsets. I suspect the user experience on J2ME phones will be different.
Currently, Microsoft Tag’s reader can only decode and process Microsoft Tags. If Microsoft expands its website service and reader to include creating and decoding for other public domain codes like QR and Data Matrix, it could become the de facto service for 2D barcodes.