I have known about Microsoft Tag for a little while, and am really excited now that it is officially in beta since I think it is such a cool piece of technology. What is it? Well, it has two pieces.
The first is the Tag itself, which is really just a funky next generation barcode. You can see a couple of Tags I created for SlickThought.NET in this post. Anybody can create a Tag and, at least during the beta, you can create Tags for free (and keep using them free for up to two years after RTM!). When you create a Tag, you associate it with a Web URL, a phone number, a vCard, or just a piece of text. You do that online at the Tag site once you have registered. You can get a deeper understanding of the image technology here.
Now the really cool second part! Tag also has a mobile phone application that runs on a range of mobile phones including Windows Mobile, J2ME, Blackberry, Symbian S60, and yes, even iPhone (Microsoft's second iPhone app!) - because the app needs to talk to the Tag service, you do need Internet access enabled on your phone. When you run the app, it activates your cell phone's camera, and all you have to do is point the camera at the tag and "bam" - the Tag is recognized and whatever data that is associated with that tag is retrieved and acted upon. For the first Tag image (left side) on this page, the Tag app will automatically launch your phone's browser and take you to SlickThought.NET - certainly a Tag my four readers will want to print and leave all over town! The second Tag image (right side) is actually a vCard and will prompt you to add my Slickthought vCard to your phone's contact list.
I was impressed with how I barely had to get the Tag image in the camera's field of the view for the Tag application to recognize it. In several tests, it was as easy as just waving the camera in in front of the image. I can also share Tag information I have scanned from the Tag application and save them for later use. Very cool stuff. For product placement things, business cards, etc. - there are a ton of possibilities. You can even put them on billboards! The Tag web site will also generate reports on how often your Tag has been scanned.