Microsoft's "MS Tags"

Posted by: Nicholas M. Roberts

So you just got into QR Codes and now suddenly people are talking about how Microsoft Tags are better. What are MS Tags? Pamela Hazelton calls them QR Codes on Steriods. They’re 2D barcodes just like QR, but they don’t look like unsolvable mazes and they can be customized to look extremely pretty. You can make your own, but to make one as pretty as the ones Microsoft keeps showing off you need some decent graphic design skills.

It seems Microsoft’s intention isn’t to compete with QR codes. Rather it’s trying to overthrow them. The official site for the Tag application stresses that QR codes use “basic” colors while Microsoft tags are “robust” and “flexible.” However, all of the reasons MS Tags are robust and flexible are just the same as QR Codes, and their listed benefits seem to be exactly the same.

I feel most of the comparisons between the two are incredibly shallow. They go out of their way to discredit QR and grasp the loosest benefit of MS Tags and run with it until they can’t breathe. I admit both codes have their shortcomings, but MS Tags will never take off without support and exposure…and so far, I haven’t even seen one when I’ve been out and about. Along with the nonexistent codes, there aren’t too many ways to scan one if it does find you. How many QR reader apps can you think of? I was able to [make a list], and I still didn’t get to including them all. With QR codes you have i-nigma, Barcode Scanner, QuickMark, BeeTagg and ScanLife just to name a small portion of the many. Your options for MS Tags are as follows:

That’s it! Microsoft’s very own reader is the only one that is compatible with their code. Albeit, it is free and can be used with just about every platform out there. The MS Tag Reader is also not compatible with QR Codes. I suppose this makes sense. Sony’s Blu-Ray players weren’t compatible with Toshiba’s HD DVDs and visa versa. This allowed for one of the two (Sony) to come out on top. But with the lack of exposure and their extremely limited number of reader s , Microsoft can’t possibly expect to win this one.

Matthias Galica wrote an interesting blog where he argues MS Tags and AT&T’s awkward QR alternative are killing the whole industry of 2D codes. People will not want to invest their time into QR codes if some of the biggest companies in the world are trying to dethrone them. They will continue to think “If this is the next iteration of QR codes, then I’ll just wait for that.” Instead, Microsoft and AT&T should embrace QR. Everyone could benefit from these companies jumping on the QR bandwagon instead developing an alternative.

If you would like to read some of the less biased comparisons I have come across, consult the following links: