back to article Microsoft Tag emerges from beta

Microsoft Tag is out of beta, with Redmond claiming companies are dying to start making use of the format. Microsoft Tags are prettier than QR (Quick Response) Codes, being in colour, but embody much the same functionality being linked to a phone number, URL or plain text - though a Microsoft Tag can also contain a vCard. Tags …

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FAIL

Printing.

Fine, but what happens if my output format will only be in black and white?

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FAIL

Still a big, fat fail, but...

...they did consider that and yes, you can use b&w tags.

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Anonymous Coward

"All Tags report back to a single source, ensuring a high consistency in user experience"

consistently crap? That's the Microsoft way.

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Gates Horns

All Tags report back to a single source, ensuring a high consistency in user experience"

So what happens when this server goes down, or the network to it becomes congested.

Can you say 'Single point of failure'

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Grenade

@John G Imrie

Single point of failure?

Can you say "Virtual IP" and "DNS"

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Sidekick could

Didn't do them much good now, did it.

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Anonymous Coward

Single point of failure happens earlier..

.. the moment you started thinking about something MS has developed.

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Joke

You heard it here first

January 2013 - Apple changes shopping forever with the Apple iTag!

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I remember....

I think for Microsoft the initial driver behind Microsoft Tab's was a project with the internal code name Milan. I have put a link to a handy source with a video of project Milan in action, also known as the interactive coffie table or Microsoft Surface.

When you watch the video (which has an irritating ad, bear with it), it will show you items like camera's, phones and cups interacting with the table. These i belive use Microsoft's Tab tech. There is another video kicking around that shows you this in more detail, however I don't feel like looking for it. Enjoy the video link below, and read the article that its embeded in if you want more info on the MS Surface.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/news/4217348

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Boffin

Re: Milan

Exciting stuff (Milan, not Tag), but not related to Tag. Tag was started as a response to the :CueCat (remember THAT one? http://www.cuecat.com/). That pretty much died back in 2001. With all the hype from magazines Wired, Forbes, etc., how could they not get a piece of that action? Though it was started as a game of catch-up, but by the time they caught up, the :CueCat was already floundering into the depths.

That Tag is out now must mean that MS sees an opportunity to resurrect the project and utilise cameras vs. dedicated scanner tech as the aquisition medium... and keep a hold on the latest(?) craze in advertising as a bonus.

:CueCat utilised a weak "encryption" to force advertisers to use its service thanks to DCMA. The patents on the device and service are supposedly still viable under LV Partners.

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FAIL

I just wonder...

With all that money cannot Microsoft employ a single person with a bit of business sense..

This is like that woman that wanted to sell semaphore flags to kids on the apprentice a few years ago...

Colour adds to printing costs. Who is ever going to be bored enough to start going to random URL's (Security?) through their phone.

Why would a businesses ever need one of these when they can show a nice URL on a printed document that everyone can use. Alternatively If they want a bar code to identify a product they can use a bar code, which is free and when hooked up to a database and contain an unlimited amount of data!

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Those QR codes...

I buy an amount of Japanese foods each month, and I've come across the older codes (that look like static to me!) on a number of products. I guess if URLs are complicated, or may contain lettering that some members of your target market aren't familiar with (how do you say "http" in Kana?), it probably makes sense to include it in some sort of coded form for easy access. The idea of photo, recognise, interpret is really quite clever.

Sad to say, however, that I just don't like the Microsoft one. It isn't pleasingly functional, I wonder how distinctive it will be on glossy packaging and, really, it looks like a level diagram of some sort of '80s platform game. If I hit the zoom up key a load of times, will I see Jet Set Willy running around inside the Microsoft code?

Still, let them try. They'll have their work cut out to displace an established and autonymous code.

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Report back?

So it's a barcode that requires the scanner to have a constant, uninterrupted internet connection?! (Not to mention 4-colour printing on every item).

I fail to see the advantage in a barcode scanner that can only be used in a fixed location, or with an expensive wireless solution. Part of the benefits of QR codes is that they hold enough information for the scanner to refer to a local database (even downloaded to a handheld scanner in advance), rather than relying on a remotely connected database.

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Err...

Supermarkets, large chain shops and many warehouses already have links back to central datacentres and already use wireless and wired scanners. Also, as I understand it you don't need to have colour, it's an option.

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Why?

Hard to see the benefits. If you're a supermarket (or other user), you need your scanner to have an always-on internet connection, and you need to wait for the message to do a round-trip to MSHQ and back, instead of just to the server in the back of the store. Oh, and all your customers need to print their codes in colour, instead of black-and-white. And of course the slight issue that regular QR codes are fully working and have been in widespread use for a couple of years, instead of having only just left beta, so they're competing with an established standard.

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Anonymous Coward

Huh?

How can somthing printed on paper possibly control where the data goes first? It's down to the application and as soon as someone who isn't microsoft creates one then that 'feature' will stop. Unless they are forcing stupid licensing agreements on its use, in which case no one outside of microsoft will use it...

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Retorical

"Unless they are forcing stupid licensing agreements on its use,"

You just answered your question. SOP for MS.

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WTF?

Who needs facts when you have a press release?

"A QR Code can only store 250 characters of plain text"

Utter, utter rubbish. From here: http://www.qr-code.eu/

QR-Code Data capacity:

* Numeric only Max. 7,089 characters

* Alphanumeric Max. 4,296 characters

* Binary (8 bits) Max. 2,953 bytes

* Kanji/Kana Max. 1,817 characters

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And we're currently using them

We currently use them to store ~~2k of data - they're reliable, the error correction is pretty damned good and all in all, it does everything I'd want from a barcode - including not requiring the scanner to be online.

Gotta love Microsoft's control freakery

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I'd add to that...

FAIL

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FAIL

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FAIL

Oh, and not to mention...

FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL

FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL

FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL

FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL

FAIL FAIL FAIL FIAL

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Boffin

Less information

The article a a little misleading here since the example shown doesn't contain more information itself.

The Microsoft tag only holds 105 *bits* of data, versus your example QR code (which actually would contain 440 bits or 77 alphanumeric characters not 250 as it is a 29x29 matrix assuming the lowest ECC level).

Yes there's more data available by using a tinyurl style link via Microsoft.... but you could of course do exactly the same with a QR tag.

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Change the link...

Or, you could just point your URL to a landing page and then redirect to wherever you want from there... Bit of forethought goes a long way...

QR codes are much more distinctive and they work pretty well - why do we need yet another format? Sony'll be coming up with one next - they love making new, pointless, formats for things after all....

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@nemo20000

I think they mean data density at a certain size. 4296 characters in a QR code would be the size of an A0 poster.

However I agree, giving total control to Microsoft is stupid. It's laughable they call this tech open.

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JDX
Gold badge

Single point of failure?

Just like Google then... EVERYTHING goes through them too - click on a link in search results for instance.

Not defending the system, but it's hardly some evil-MS thing. What I don't buy is what they offer me as a customer of the system? I suppose if they take care of all the server stuff, I don't need to and can just be sent a report, which is a nice service?

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Hardly some evil MS-thing ?

Google's approach works because it is for the public, and we all know that the public has to have its ass on fire before it worries about buying an extinguisher.

This tech is directly aimed at businesses. As such, we'll see just how many of them appreciate the "total Redmond control" aspect of the tech.

If this thing is a failure, then we'll just have to accept that it was indeed "some evil MS-thing".

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I happen to like it

Microsoft Tag is a great solution, mainly for companies wanting to track the efficiency of the tags (i.e how many people scan the tag on a certain billboard, TV-show or newspaper).

I've tried it in its beta phase, and it's very convenient. I can manage my tag and re-associate if I replace my website etc.

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Bronze badge

Not the tag, it's the tracking

There's nothing in a QR-Code that prohibits this - encode the URL as http://theregister.co.uk?campaign=dailymail or whatever. Plus you get the benefits of an open standard and the cost-savings of being able to run your add in black and white.

You can also store vCards in a QR-code quite easily - so long as the scanning app recognises it., and many do. NTT Docomo offers a variation on this (me-cards) out of the box on their phones.

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Eyesore

These are an utter eyesore, but let's face it until Win7 Microsoft never really seemed to worry about how things looked.

With regards to the comments on needing always on internet connections, a lot of people already have these. Pretty much every iPhone for a start. Although I'm curious to see if you'll get an iPhone App. I don't own an iPhone, don't intend to, and can't be bothered to look to see if there is one. But people do have always on internet connections, and each day it seems more and more are getting them.

QR codes are not just for mundane uses, and are getting more popular each day. I've seen them on t-shirts worn by band members playing gigs, translating to slogons not repeatable in polite company. I've seen them used in museums and art galleries linking through from exhibits to web pages going into more detail with images and videos. It may be "the next big thing" it may be a passing fad. But either way, a QR code is not ugly, a certain beer company's adverts at the moment look heavily influenced by them.

The Microsoft ones though? A real eyesore.

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Don't forget Data Matrix...

It's already finding considerable use in the west (in fact, it's getting hard to NOT find a Data Matrix--the USPS uses them now), and it's comparable in overall purpose to QR Code (usage preference is more a geographical factor). Most scanners that can do QR Code can also do Data Matrix. And it's open. So that's TWO well-in-use open standards Tag has to deal with.

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Colour

"Microsoft Tags are prettier than QR (Quick Response) Codes, being in colour...."

Wrong!

http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/2009/08/colourfullouis-vuitton-designer-qr-code-rocks/

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RE: Colour

None of those codes in the mobileinc page scanned properly (using the ZXing Barcode App on Android).

FAIL, indeed.

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FAIL

Again nice for business not for customers. Microsoft still is B2B company

Hopefully they make the mistake not to tell how it works. It would only help adoption on the receivers side which is essential here. That way the reader will be proprietary software and thus I will never be able to be disturbed by commercials, billboards etc

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Telling us how it works...

...don't you have to... in the patent application?

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Big Brother

nice to know

From their Microsoft Tag Implementation Guide:

"Microsoft Tag allows Tag creators to identify each mobile phone used to scan one of their tags by using a unique device ID.

[..]

It is an anonymous but persistent number that uniquely identifies a particular mobile phone. Although the device ID is sometimes* based on another device-specific number, such as the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, it does not correspond to any other identification system."

*sometimes? What does that mean? The reader just decides on the spot at random? How can it be a persistent number then?

I'm just waiting for the hack that uses the security through obscurity displayed here to reverse engineer the IMEI number on the spot and then call back the user immediately. I mean you must be using a certain specific GSM mast when you photograph the billboard. So linking the IMEI to a cell phone number must be possible without the help of cell phone provider.

Just for once Microsoft be clear and honest about what it is that you are doing? With Google you know exactly how they manage to hurt your privacy. With Microsoft you just never know. And that's what makes MS way more scarier.

Luckily you can still choose not to use it.

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FAIL

More failure and money wasted

And how are colour-blind devs supposed to work with and test these tags? (Note to MS devs - colour blind people can't tell if colours match or not as we have a deficiency in our colour perception).

Also, every single scan reports back to MS - WTF is that about? I can only see this being used by companies which blindly follow the 'Everything is Microsoft' mantra. (Natural selection should be taking these out over time).

So many people need food/healthcare/education on this planet and MS still has the funds available to waste on these doomed me-to-but-ms-only projects.

I know Billy G is dishing out billions to Africa - but something isn't right where people are forced to waste their money on terrible software products and the profits are then wasted on such dumb projects.

BTW - if we still see anything about these tags in twelve months time then I'll 'eat me airedale!'

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Oh please !

I enjoy a good MS bash just as much as the next guy, but try hitting where it hurts, okay ?

MS is a private company and its remit has nothing to do with solving world hunger. Neither is that the goal of any of the Fortune 500, nor is it the goal of your friendly baker next door. Get a grip.

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Anonymous Coward

More incorrectidies

As well as QR being designed to be able to hold much more than the Microsoft Tag, QR codes can hold vcards without resorting to the web to look them up.

Microsoft Tags are just designed to be an ID like RFID which can then go and find the required data on the web.

Surprising amount if misinformation in this article

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Boffin

MS Tag data storage

The MS tag likely only stores a unique serial number, which is associated with the link by the referral to Microsoft's databases. This would be massively different than QR, which stores all the data in the printed code itself.

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Go

Yes, but QR codes are hard

The Microsoft way requires a colour printer and a web browser, so Mom and Pop Cafe can use it.

With only one client to install, there's a greater-than-zero chance of one non-geek actually reading the tag.

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WTF?

@Hayden Clark

Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and try and imagine yourself standing on a stage in front of a large audience, speaking those words out loud.

Horrible, wasn't it.

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Unhappy

Microsoft loves standards

Typical microsoft. They love standards so much that whenever they come across one, they invent another.

Anyway, it seems to me that barcode doesn't actually store 250 bytes of data (otherwise you'd be able to read them without microsoft to translate for you).

Somehow, I suspect the pretty picture is doing little more than storing a shortish ID code of perhaps only a few bytes and MS is using that as an index into a key-value table. So the barcode itself contains nothing of any significance.

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Big Brother

This is sickening...

I started off wondering why does Microsoft feel the need to keep reinventing the wheel (so to speak) with almost everything they do. At first I thought maybe its so they can claim they originate so many ideas (even though the hidden small print is that its really derived from some previous work they didn't create).

But I can now see (from the end part of the news article), I wasn't even close to thinking dark enough. :(

I see now the game plan is for Microsoft to reinvent it into something that puts them centrally in control over it and the only reason they would want such central control, is so that they can then ultimately spy on and then sell user usage statistical data. Its the same business model as search engines. Its also yet another sad sign of the world taking one more step towards an Orwellian level of spying on us all, but as usual wrapped up in the usual Machiavellian two faced Doublespeak we get from these companies who want to spy but pitch it as a service.

I was going to say the black and white version is cheaper for companies to print, but such a minor technical issue seems totally unimportant in the light of realizing that this is another way to spy on people. Oh sure its user choice, so its stochastically sampling a population rather than sampling everyone but then stochastically is enough to use that data to lie to and manipulate and influence a society. Its another sign of marketers are working to perfect their ability to lie and manipulate societies.

It looks like so many companies these days are desperately trying to find ever more ways to spy on people, yet as always they don't say its spying, its all covered over in two faced lies to make it sound like services. The service is just a carrot on a stick so to speak to get ever more people to leak data.

The reason I care is that the more sheeple who fall for all this, the more their actions affect the society I have to also live in. As a result of their ignorance the more this ever more spied on world becomes the accepted norm. What was once considered and feared as Orwellian and fascist gets repainted as the norm. Yet through the cracks in the news, we can see the sickeningly deep growing festering arrogance and corruption of the governments and businesses as they move us hopelessly towards a world ever better at perfecting its ability to spy on and manipulate a society into hiding so much that is going on and so what goes on will get ever worse just as every corrupt society in history, yet this is becoming a global corruption, so there will be no where to run from it all. I'm past caring about how the sheeple of this world will one day pay for their ignorance, but I don't want my family and friends to be dragged into the same hole so many sheeple are blindly taking society into. Just about every week these day the news has ever more warning signs. :(

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Anonymous Coward

Just goes to show...

... how easy it is to spy on people. This was always the case, but now it takes a whole lot less effort, and it's getting easier and cheaper by the day. Look, even micros~1 is doing it.

There was a study not long ago by, if memory serves, a couple of Japanese researchers who could track people with reasonable accuracy around an office building with little more than strategically placed passage sensors. Which just goes to show that, well, a lot of things, really. Think about it.

If we don't really need (expensive, cumbersome, not all that accurate) electronic face recognition trickery behind ubiquitous CCTV networks to automatically track and even identify someone in an office building, then what does that say about our governments ``flight forward'' towards ubiquitous surveillance with the newest technology they can get?

Afterward we can resume our habitual bickering about the (un)necessity of tracking everybody at all.

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Gates Horns

Stevie likes it

Yet another attempt at a M$ lock-in.

Now they will spread the wealth to make it defacto.

Wonder how Bill is doing with his new monopoly, Corbis.

REG: we need an evil Ballmer as Bill has supposedly gone away.

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Anonymous Coward

@why?

"Hard to see the benefits. If you're a supermarket (or other user), you need your scanner to have an always-on internet connection, and you need to wait for the message to do a round-trip to MSHQ"

Or MS can sell you "MS Tag Enterprise Server" software with associated per-device licensing and an expensive service contract...

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Anonymous Coward

It's...

It's a solution looking for a problem, but hey, that might have been said about Windows, once!

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WTF?

Eye-watering-ly bad colors

Ouch. My eyes hurt just looking at those colors.

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FAIL

rear entry embedded system?

Only short-sighted, history impaired, utterly moronic Microsoft fanbois would even consider using this. Must have permanent connection to Microsoft? Only they get to decode it? Who on Earth other than people who are already firmly embedded on Microsoft's tool would want this?

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