Commentary

Microsoft Says 'Ta Ta' To Tags; ScanBuy Says 'Hello'

We have pretty much lost count of the number of mobile activation schemes that are trying to make that magic connection between physical media and marketing assets and the digital cosmos. QR is just the most obvious (and ugliest), but it forms a head of the line that includes AR solutions, watermarking, image recognition, and of course the audio fingerprinting solutions as well. Microsoft made a valiant and costly play into the space years ago with its Tag technology, a multicolored and more data-rich proprietary alternative to QR. It aggressively promoted the platform to magazines in particular, where it had an obvious presence for a while.

But the company seems to have had enough of the format, announcing this morning that it will stop supporting Microsoft Tags two years from today. As of Aug. 19, 2015, Microsoft servers will no longer manage calls from Tags. Instead the company is licensing much of the technology and IP to mobile code platform ScanBuy, which already services QR codes, NFC, its own EZCode format, Datamatrix and others. CEO Mike Wehrs says they will honor any service agreements that marketers or media have made with Microsoft, which offered the platform free in order to help proliferate the format.

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Wehrs says that despite the shutting down of Microsoft's support for the Tags, no one is abandoning the format. “We will advance the Tag platform itself to have features and performance on par with what we do for other codes,” he says. ScanBuy, which helps companies execute and track their code programs, can dynamically allocate content based on user preferences or contexts.

Current Tag customers will be offered the opportunity to migrate to ScanBuy’s platform, which will include the codes, scan histories, and account information.

The deal also gives ScanBuy another proprietary format to manage, adding to its own EZCode. Wehrs emphasizes that the deal with Microsoft licenses all of the intellectual property associated with the Tags. It adds to the ScanBuy portfolio of rights it can extend to partners to protect against what Wehrs describes as “patent trolls.” “It dramatically extends our patent protection,” he says.

Current Tag partners number in the "tens of thousands," Wehrs says -- from publishers like Conde Nast, which is using the Tags in this month’s annual Free Stuff issue, to many small businesses and individuals who acquired tags from Microsoft’s self-service portal over the years. In coming months, the ScanBuy app ScanLife will recognize Microsoft Tags.

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