Microsoft Exits TAG - Good or Bad for the barcode industry?


thumbs up2Tuesday - August 20th, 2013 - In case you missed the article yesterday, Microsoft is leaving the barcode marketing niche.  2D industry leader Scanbuy inked an agreement with Microsoft to take over support and operation of the Tag product.  
      What does it mean for the 2D space as a whole?   I reached out to a number of CEOs in the niche for input -  and today we are sharing comments from a discussion with Mike Wehrs, CEO of Scanbuy - the leader in 2D marketing campaigns and the company that seems to have effectively capitalized on the Microsoft move.     
 (We think this whole issue is significant, and have comments from a half-dozen other CEOs and luminaries in this market segment. Their thoughts will appear in tomorrows column in The Bar Code News)
   After reviewing the press release - and trying to read between the lines, my impression was that the Tag product was headed for the dustbin in 24 months, but my conversation with Mike Wehrs late yesterday left me with a different understanding.    
    Firstly -  Scanbuy has promised to integrate support for the Tag code in its Scanlife reader - Wehrs estimated this will be completed before the end of 2013.  
He (Wehrs) pointed out to me that there are millions of active Tag codes floating around, and that they have a very long shelf life.  (Indeed!)    He also told me he'd spent most of the day (following the news in the press release) talking with existing and potential Tag clients, all curious to know what was up, what Scanbuy's intentions were, and where this was going.  The feedback he said, was overwhelmingly positive, with a number of clients expressing delight that Microsoft was exiting the space.   The gist of that sentiment was that the Tag product was essentially an orphaned child at Microsoft and/or that it was likely to receive far more care and nurturing from a company whose entire energies were focused on the 2D space. 
     Some prospective clients felt that this was actually an opportunity to initiate a Tag campaign he said, because they had never believed that Microsoft would pay much attention to such a small niche.   (As a former software developer who used MS products, I can totally empathize with those comments.  It's hard to create stability, energy and enthusiasm in a product when the people running it are so far removed from the developers and end-users.)   
     So, perhaps this will be a great opportunity for the Tag product and clients.  With the addition of the Scanlife support, Wehrs informed me that 80 million additional users will be able to scan Tag codes.   That is excellent news for the 2D niche. As a fan of 2D codes and their potential - I carry several barcode scanning apps on my mobile phone - however - when I upgraded two months ago to the Samsung Galaxy S4, I did not even bother downloading the Tag reader. (I think I have too many apps on my phone as it is).   I do use the Scanlife reader regularly, and also a few others - so as soon as Scanbuy embeds support for Tag in their reader, that will be one less app to worry about. 
     A side benefit to the Tag code, according to Wehrs, is that a Tag could be very dense and contain enough to data to provide an end-user experience even where there was no connectivity. In other words - even if the smartphone is out of range, Wehrs feels that the code could contain enough data to generate some kind of meaningful response for the end-user, such as a small jpg image. That would be refreshing. I imagine that trick could be even easier if one included extra code or content right in the app itself.  
Recap of comments: 
1. There are millions of active Tag codes out there with a long life that will be able to remain active - Scanbuy will support them. 
2. Current Tag code publishers will be able to migrate to Scanbuy shortly (expected in September 2013) all the history, data and activity from their Tag codes. 
3. Wehrs believes that proprietary 2D barcodes can be safer than the QR code - because the way those codes resolve will be filtered by engines that are looking to protect the end user from abuse, modification or spoofing of the codes by hackers or vandals - and that Tag offers significant benefits in this regard. 
(Incidentally, Wehrs worked for Microsoft for 6 and a half years. )
    MUCH more on the Tag story coming tomorrow - we have comments from other CEOs and luminaries in the 2D barcode space - be sure to check in at , or subscribe (free) by clicking on the button in the upper left hand corner of this page.   You can also follow us on Twitter @theBarCodeNews  or on our Facebook page.
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