After three years in which it hasn't made as much impact as might have been expected, Microsoft has decided to withdraw its mobile barcode service, Microsoft Tag, on August 19, 2015.
Over recent years 2D barcodes have become a familiar part of the world of print and paper being found on product packaging, newspaper and magazine adverts, business cards, museum exhibits, restaurant menus and even tombstones. But if you ask the consumers who scan them with their mobile devices what these codes are called they are likely to say "QR codes", shorthand for Quick Response codes.
Microsoft Tag, an implementation High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCB) invented by Gavin Jancke at Microsoft Research, was introduced in June 2010. Its distinctive feature is color - it uses a grid of cyan, magenta, yellow and black triangles - although since December 2011 its reader app has also supported the more familiar black and white block QR codes and has had the ability to read Near Field Communication (NCF) signals.
Embracing these other technologies was the first indication that it wasn't in the winning position in the race for market share and now it has admitted defeat, giving two years notice of withdrawal of the service to its customers in a luridly colorful email message.
The message is also posted on the Microsoft Tag Facebook page and on its own site. Looking at the distinct lack of Facebook activity and the infrequency of posts own blog the writing has been on the wall for a while already.
At least Microsoft is providing a migration path for its existing customers, pointing them in the direction of Scanbuy, described in the announcement as "the largest provider of QR codes", which has undertaken to support Microsoft Tag Technology on the ScanLife platform beginning no later than September 18th, 2013. Though Microsoft Tag will itself remain open until August 2015.
Scanbuy's ScanLife isn't a free service - the basic package normally costs $85 per month - but its Special Transition Package for Microsoft customers is Free and will enable users to continue to create and monitor codes using both QR codes and Tags.