Microsoft is attempting to reinvent in the barcode with tags that, when scanned by mobile phones, can connect magazine readers with digital information about the article they’re reading, the ad they’re viewing or the Kevin Myers editorial that they’re raging over. Well, they haven’t moved on to Myers just yet but the experiment has been going on surreptitiously for over a year now.
Linking up printed material with online content the system could actually be expanded to areas like business cards, various products and even banner adverts. A Cnet report on the concept notes that Marja Koopmans, marketing leader for Microsoft’s start-up accelerator unit terms the idea as a ‘hyperlink for the physical world’.
Adds the report, “Tags can link to anything from a Web page to an online brochure or electronic business card. Golf Digest magazine; for example, uses tags to link directly to YouTube videos that can be viewed on an iPhone or other smartphone. That allows the magazine to, essentially, include not just how-to articles, but also instructional videos within its publication.”
Reading the tags requires users to download a small bit of software onto your phone, though Microsoft has wisely decided to support a variety of phones, from basic Java phones to smartphones, including Windows Mobile devices, BlackBerrys, and even iPhones. The Tag effort started in Microsoft’s research labs a couple of years ago but has now moved into the start-up unit that houses some of Microsoft’s most nascent businesses.
For the moment, the technology behind the tag freely available and at the minute there’s no charge for the reader or for companies that want to create a tag. But predictably enough there is a route to profit there somewhere. They didn’t become a multi-billion dollar corporation by being nice. “We believe the basic services we provide now are going to be free,” Koopmans told Cnet. Down the road though, she says, Microsoft may charge for more advanced services. “We’re not a philanthropic institution,” she added.