About a year ago Microsoft released an iPhone app called Tag. It allowed users to scan Microsoft’s own 2D barcode format, often referred to as Microsoft Tag. Now that app is available on Google’s Android platform as well. This is the first app Redmond has made for the Android OS, and given the frosty relationship between Google and Microsoft, it comes as a bit of a surprise.
This is also of interest given that Android already makes good use of a different 2D barcode format, the QR code. Android users already use apps like Barcode Reader and Google Goggles to read those codes. The Microsoft Tag codes are small square images like QR codes, but unlike QR codes they make use of color to encode information. Scanning them can direct users to websites, provide coupons, or provide just display text.
It’s nice to see that Microsoft isn’t eschewing Android completely in anticipation of their upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series devices. The question though: have you ever actually seen one of these Microsoft Tags? QR codes are more widespread, and Android already makes use of them. Still, the Microsoft Tag app is free, and in the Market if you want it. Just scan the QR code below with an Android phone if you wish... oh the irony.
Microsoft has released a free iPhone app called TagReader. It happens to be the software bellwether’s second iPhone app after SeaDragon Mobile. Using TagReader, iPhone users can photograph a tag (Microsoft’s vivid version of barcodes) to search for information related to that particular tag without having to type in anything.
If you snap a tag on a person’s visiting card using the TagReader iPhone app, then your search will, in all likelihood, yield results related to that person. The app sounds fun from the off, but its usefulness is contingent upon the success of Microsoft Tag, which is currently in beta. You can create your own tags here and eventually test the usefulness of TagReader by snapping them.