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Microsoft gives up on proprietary 2D barcode, accepts NFC

MS Tag maintained as a 'curiosity'

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Microsoft is embracing wireless web bookmarking by allowing its Tag app to pick up URLs using NFC - as well reading industry-standard QR codes and Redmond's own barcode standard, also called Tag.

Microsoft's answer to the QR Code came out of beta in May 2010, and since then has resolutely failed to set the world on fire.

With the addition of NFC the original Microsoft Tag is described as something which will raise curiosity, while QR Codes provide functionality and NFC shows the way of the future.

Comparing Microsoft Tag with a QR Code

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The world probably isn't big enough for multiple 2D bar codes, and Microsoft reckons "there is increasing frustration among consumers over not knowing which reader to use for which code", though given the scarcity of Microsoft Tags (we've never seen one in the wild) the confusion isn't that bad.

"Microsoft Tag delivers the freedom for brands to select the recognition format most appropriate for their customers, and grants customers a single app to launch those experiences," a Redmond rep told NFC World.

So Microsoft has extended its platform to use QR Codes like everyone else, and added support for URLs embedded in NFC tags too. Redmond will still host a redirection server (so the encoded URL points to Microsoft, who forwards the request while accumulating usage statistics). Microsoft's own Tag format is now relegated to something which can be used to "Raise Curiosity", presumably from people thinking "what's that thing which looks like a QR Code but isn't?" QR Codes are recommended for general use, and NFC as the path to the future.

NFC has to be the future as the proximity-radio technology isn't yet supported by the Windows Phone platform. Handset support for NFC is still limited to a handful of handsets running Android and Symbian (and the Samsung Tocco NFC, of course) but even Microsoft can see the writing on the wall, and it's not a proprietary 2D barcode up there. ®

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