What is Microsoft Tag?
Microsoft Tag serves the same purpose as QR codes and many other two dimensional barcodes. They “connect the physical with the digital”, as Microsoft themselves put it. They allow digital content to be added where it couldn't be added before by scanning a small barcode. Whereas QR codes look more like a traditional barcode, the Microsoft Tag is much more colorful and allows for a high percentage of alteration without damaging the data encoded inside. This makes it especially useful for branding since users can easily add their own colors or logo. Aside from that the process is the same. Using Microsoft's generator anyone can create a Microsoft Tag to add to print media, marketing materials, websites, products or anything else they desire.
Pros and Cons
Microsoft Tag has a lot of great features. As previously mentioned they allow for a higher percentage of distortion. This means anyone can customize the tag, essentially making it “their own”. Aside from looks Microsoft also throws in some really neat features that are hard to pass up.
Track and Reporting: See how many times a tag has been scanned, where it's been scanned from, how users interacted with it and much more. Heat maps are even provided, which show on a map where and how many times a tag has been scanned.
Targeting: Microsoft Tag can be customized to show something specific to a user based on if he or she has scanned the tag before. Users can also be shown different content based on where geographically they are scanning a tag from.
APIs and SDKs: For the technical crowd, Microsoft provides the tools needed to manage tags and tag data and also to integrate tag functionality into other applications.
These features all sound huge when compared to QR codes. Quick Response codes are limited in providing things like consistent tracking since there isn't just one company regulating their development. This can also be a disadvantage, though. A Microsoft Tag can only be created using Microsoft's generator, whereas QR codes are open source making QR code generators plentiful. In addition, Microsoft also holds the keys to the only Microsoft Tag scanner, rather than having the thousands of options that QR codes have. Even the high rate of error correction of Microsoft Tags can be considered a disadvantage. Whereas QR codes have a certain pattern of boxes which can't be altered and remain consistent, most Microsoft Tags look very different. This lack of a consistent look can mean that viewers may not recognize them for what they are immediately, resulting in less scans. Users also need a Microsoft account before even starting to generate a Microsoft Tag.
Getting Started with Microsoft Tags
Luckily getting started creating and scanning Microsoft Tags is easy. Microsoft provides a convenient hub of information on their website which provides all information someone new to these tags could need. Apps which scan Microsoft Tags are available for download for Android, iPhone, Windows Phones, BlackBerry, Symbian and even J2ME phones. Downloading the app can be done through a text from Microsoft directly to your phone or by navigating to the Microsoft Tag mobile website. Creating a Microsoft is also pretty easy using Microsofts generator. The only roadblock is needing to sign in to a Microsoft account before even being able to see the creator.
Microsoft Tag is definitely a viable alternative to QR codes. Current usage doesn't point to it overtaking the QR barcode anytime soon, but it definitely remains as a possibility for those looking for the features that it provides. Being able to brand a barcode is big feature, not to mention reporting and tracking. This gap in features, though, is made up by simply how much more accessible QR codes are, both for readers and generators. Regardless, two dimensional barcodes are still young and have a lot of growing to do. Time will only tell how successfully Microsoft Tag will be when compared to the popular Quick Response code.