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Microsoft Tag vs. QR tag

One of Microsoft’s announcements on CES09 was Microsoft Tag. Do you remember last try of Microsoft to create mobile barcodes on Live platform? I remember it. So why Windows Live Barcode was deprecated, while Microsoft creates new one? What the key difference between Quick Response approach, barely adopted by industry and new colorful MS stuff? Let’s try to understand differences and approximate future fail or success on this technology.

QR vs. Microsoft tag

Key differences:

  • The only information contains inside MS Tag is ID, which should be used to fetch all relevant information from tag server while QR contains all necessary information and can be used offline. Both technologies have it own advantages and disadvantages. From one hand, you can manage and fix results all the time, from the other hand, what happen with fraud and offline usage?
  • MS Tag using High Capacity Color Barcode (HCCB) technology, which makes able to encode more information into relatively small area. Also because of small amount of information, errors can be handled easily for MS Tag. For encode 1 byte we need 8 symbols in QR codes, while in MS Tag only 4.
  • MS Tag using thee base colors (CMYK) while QR only two (BW), thus in offset print MS Tag is much more sensitive to the quality of color plates. From other hand, if I my approximation is right, MS Tag can be printed in gray palette too, due to the fact, that it uses color differences, rather then color codes for decoding. Also it seemed, that hardware used for four barcodes will be more expensive, than similar hardware for two colors.
  • Because of the fact, that QR is mature technology (first ISS was presented in October 1997), there are huge amount of devices, supports it natively, while MS Tag is rather new. From other hand, provides WM,J2ME, IPhone, Blackberry and Symbian native clients for reading MS Tags. So it seemed, that very soon (if Microsoft will not abandon it again) this will be distributed de-facto.
  • QR Code® is registered trademark of Denso Wave Inc, which makes this technology problematic for future enhancements, also HCCB, used for MS Tag is licensed by Microsoft, however as far as I understand from their IPL site, it can be used as far as remains under MS patent agreement. But maybe an appliance of this technology is protected.

Bottom line – I’m very skeptic with MS Tags, however let’s give it a chance and see whether MS Tag will become another Semacode, ShotCode, PDF417, Dot Code, Aztec Code, etc. or become Barcode technology we see every day everywhere…

Meanwhile, you can create your own MS Tag, download free reader for your mobile device from and decide whether you like it or not. For me, this technology is cool, but the code itself is very ugly :)

Be good people and have a nice day.

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39 Responses to “Microsoft Tag vs. QR tag”

  1. Evgeny Says:


  2. Ryan Says:

    I think the fact that it is “ugly” will be the reason it succeeds.

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  4. Antonio Edward Says:

    I created several QR Codes and Microsoft Tags for my web site and for my wife’s web site. I prefer the proprietary Microsoft Tags over QR Code. Though, QR Code is open source and the code in the matrix is not linked to a server.

    I hope that Microsoft will open it up so that a company like Warner Bros. can have their own server. Software can be installed on any server which allows the MS Tags to be read, it recognizes which server to go to, and then gets the information from that server.

    I can imagine that even GoDaddy can offer a service for server-less people who wants to register 20 different barcodes of MS Tags.

    For my sites, I am using both QR Codes and MS Tag. I will continue to use both because it seems that QR Codes is really popular in European and Asian countries. MS Tag may be more popular in the states. We will see!

  5. HardLink Says:

    Good to see the relative merits of different Tag formats being discussed.

    If you’re using any form of Mobile Tagging technology, you should check out HardLink at
    The HardLink platform knows which device your customer is using to Snap your Tags, knows the device’s characteristics and helps you to tailor your mobile online delivery to make sure your customers have a great mobile experience, every time.

    HardLink currently supports QR Codes and MS Tags, the most popular and flexible Tag technologies in use today. You can use a mixture of Tag types or just one in a campaign and let HardLink’s advanced reporting capability tell you which type your customers are using. In the future, as more Tag types are launched, HardLink will support them meaning that you can stop worrying if your Mobile Tagging solution will support a new approach, and just concentrate on what you’re best at, your business!

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  14. Rob Says:

    For now, be cautious of using MS Tags. The MS Tag Reader has been pulled from iPhone and iPod Touch app store for a little while now due to incompatibility with the newest iOS and new generation hardware. And MS is notoriously slow to update their software in general. Paired with the fact that they are ramping up their own mobile platform in competition with iPhone, I’m not sure they even care to support the the iOS hardware with only about a 25% marketshare and Windows knocking on Apple’s door. Just something to consider when making your choice.

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  24. Wolfman Says:

    The biggest difference between the two codes is what you don’t see: Microsoft tracks everything related to their tags (including your gps location if available) the instant you scan them, while QR tags can only be tracked if you allow them to be. Microsoft wants to own all the data related to mobile barcode scanning so they can sell it. QR codes simply give you information. Microsoft Tags (and their apps) are a huge security risk, QR codes are not.
    I am amused at the moron that goes at great length into all the encryption that can be done with Microsoft Tags (and avoids the fact that the capability to encrypt QR tags DOES EXIST) and ignores the fact that it’s utterly irrelevant. QR codes are offline, and therefore communication encryption is irrelevant because zero information is being transmitted. As for the the information in the code itself, why anybody would want to encrypt that is totally beyond me, as it utterly defeats the purpose of the code, and there are *much* better ways to send “secret messages”…

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