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Tech Tips, Tricks & Trivia

by 'Anil' Radhakrishna
An architect's notes, experiments, discoveries and annotated bookmarks.

Search from over a hundred HOW TO articles, Tips and Tricks


Visual tags: Microsoft Tag vs QR Code

As the Web got more popular in the last decade, it has been common to see advertisements carrying not much of details but just a terse URL prompting those interested to visit a website to get more info. As Mobile Internet gets more affordable & handsets with cameras get cheaper, a number of applications that leverage both those features have started to emerge.

Microsoft Tag & QR Code are visual tags that use proprietary technology to encode data in a 2D "barcode". They pack a lot of information in a small space. These visual tags can be used in traditional marketing media like print advertising, billboards, packaging and merchandising. A user capturing a visual tag through her mobile phone camera can be directed to a website for detailed information (that can include online photos & video) by a barcode reader application (that needs to be installed before hand on the mobile).



Picture courtesy: Wikipedia

Google utilizes QR Code to promote the most sought out local businesses (in the US) for it's Favorite Places website. Microsoft Tag is being increasingly used by publishers & advertisers, among others, to act as a gateway from traditional media to an internet site or online media. The movie Avatar used Microsoft Tag for their ad campaign to lead users to richer info online.


Picture courtesy: Microsoft

Microsoft Tag has some distinct advantages over QR Code (content paraphrased from multiple sources) -
  • MS Tag can handle long URLs and allow for content to be dynamically changed. The creator of the Tag can control to which web page a Tag can be directed to.
  • Tags can be one quarter the size of other two dimensional barcodes thus preserving precious real-estate on printed materials
  • Seamlessly works in Color or Black & White. Businesses can use their color logo.
  • Designed to work with the limited capabilities of a typical camera phone.
  • Enhanced Reed-Solomon error correction means Tags can still be read even if partially damaged.
  • Optimized for both print and video display.
  • On many phones can decode using a direct real-time camera video stream, you don’t even have to “click” to read the code.
  • Tags are saved for later viewing and can be forwarded to someone else (no need to scan it again).
  • MS Tag provides Analytics to publishers. The reporting data can help publishers tweak their campaign if required.
The Microsoft Tag API allows developers to programmatically access many of the same operations used on the Tag website.

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Posted by Anonymous Anonymous | 1/19/2010 05:16:00 AM

You were incorrect in stating that QR Code is a proprietary technology. It is actual an open standard certified by ISO and ANSI. You were correct that MS Tag is proprietary.    



Posted by Blogger Anil | 1/19/2010 07:59:00 AM

From Wikipedia -
"QR Code is not truly an open format - the format's specification was once claimed to be available royalty-free from its owner, who has promised not to exert patent rights on it. However, it is not true that you can actually obtain the specification from its owner for free; the specification is managed under the ISO organization, and the owner directs you to the ISO website where you must purchase the specification (ISO/IEC18004) for CHF 208.00. The owner now simply states "QR Code is open in the sense that the specification of QR Code is disclosed and that the patent right owned by Denso Wave is not exercised." The term QR Code itself is a registered trademark of Denso Wave Incorporated."    



Posted by Anonymous Anonymous | 5/31/2010 11:33:00 PM

On many phones can decode using a direct real-time camera video stream, you don’t even have to “click” to read the code.

This is already done by QR long time ago. Its more about the software used than anything else.    



Posted by Anonymous Anonymous | 12/08/2010 07:04:00 AM

This part makes a tag seem less like information and more like a bit.ly link. Where it's just a code to lookup the actual information. If that were so then these are totally different beasts. This seems to be confirmed by wikipedia

"MS Tag can handle long URLs and allow for content to be dynamically changed. The creator of the Tag can control to which web page a Tag can be directed to"    



Posted by Anonymous Anonymous | 2/28/2011 07:50:00 PM

ms tags are in colour, so cost more to print, qr are black and white and so will work out cheaper, and ask yourself this one question - how long will m$ continue to allow this for free - look at their record in the past.    



Posted by Anonymous Michael Coombes | 3/11/2011 02:29:00 PM

you can colour qr codes and add your own logos to them so they don't have to be black and white.    



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