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Business - Written by on Sunday, January 25, 2009 22:29 - 4 Comments

Microsoft Tag: North Americans finally set to make their mark?

In Japan, quick response codes are everywhere.  A quick response code (QR) is essentially a barcode-like image that can be placed on anything, from billboards to McDonald’s wrappers.  Using a smartphone, a consumer can snap a picture of the QR code, and with the use of a simple application, their phone directs them to a website with some sort of additional information about the product.  McDonald’s for instance, has been using these for years to provide nutritional information about their food, and billboards advertising films allow users to snap a picture in order to instantly buy tickets.  Several Wikinomics writers on this site have written about these and other uses previously.

In Japan and some part of Europe, this is old news.  They also started trickling into Australia last year.  But now, it looks like 2009 might be their year in North America, at least for a few early adopters.

The signs?  Well, first of all, QR codes have started to pop up in a few test markets (and not always where you’d expect).  In a New York subway station, a poster for “Notorious” (the new film about famed rapper Notorious B.I.G.) had a QR code in its bottom corner.  In San Francisco, more than 500 businesses are taking part in the first large-scale test of QR codes.  Vespa also tested the use of QR codes on some Toronto billboards last year.


Still, there’s some barriers to QR adoption in North America.  First, smartphones aren’t quite as prevalent here as they are in Japan.  More importantly though, Japanese smartphones generally come with QR readers preloaded on them.  Here, you would have to download and install an application onto your Blackberry or iPhone.

But while that may have been a bigger barrier a couple years ago, North Americans are increasingly willing to download new applications like this.  The iPhone, for instance, saw huge growth in applications last year

Not surprisingly, Microsoft has just released (this month) a mobile phone program (a beta version) to use for QR code-reading (or “tagging” as they call it).  Although there are a few key differences from typical QR codes, it’s generally the same idea.  With Microsoft Tag, users can not only read tags, but can create their own, too (interestingly, this is only the second time Microsoft has made a product available on the iPhone).

With more of a push from companies like Microsoft, and more pilot projects like the one in San Fran, could we finally start to see QR coding (and similar ventures) in North America?  I hope so, because some of these suggested uses would be pretty cool.


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Oscar Quevedo
Jan 27, 2009 5:18

2009 can also be the year for wine business to adopt QR Codes. We are using it in our bottles for consumers learn more and better understand our wines.

José Eduardo
Jan 27, 2009 5:45

We’re using them on our wine bottles back labels for customers to learn more about our wines.

Catavino Internet Marketing - Links from around the web for the week of January 31, 2009
Jan 31, 2009 18:19

[...] Microsoft Tag: North Americans finally set to make their mark? – January 25, 2009 [...]

Wikinomics » Blog Archive » Twitter as the basis of an open login scheme
Feb 11, 2009 9:51

[...] doing this via a mobile phone too (either through cameraphone image, QR code (discussed here and here), IVR, OCR, or even a “sound” produced by the website that you could hold your phone up [...]

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