Tagging: the most crucial technology from Microsoft to date

Tagging is quite possibly the most excited product I have seen from Microsoft in my lifetime, and that is truly saying something. Written

Oh hallelujah! Can you hear me at the back? Scream it out! Hallelujah! Oh my Lord Hallelujah! I have seen the light! It is my pleasure, my gut belief and professional opinion (much to the dismay of many it seems), the most important technology Microsoft has developed so far.

The concept is simple, and has been around since technological prehistoric times. Tagging. The idea is to create a code, which looks like a pretty pattern, but when a phone camera (or decoding device) sees said pattern, it can be decoded into a message. This message may be limited to text, to a location, to anything. Anything.

Students rejoice, as this is a developing technology, which can be used to, not just ours, but to anyone's advantage. Picture the scene:

  • you're walking into the New York subway on a warm, gentle day, but your mind is preoccupied with your old cell phone. You see an advert for a new brand of BlackBerry and it has a Tag code on, offering a promotional discount. You whop out your phone, scan in the Tag, and there you have on your phone a 20% discount code on your next purchase.

  • you're meeting a new colleague, or a potential employer at a fayre. Instead of giving you an ordinary business card, you give him a Tag code on a business card, which allows him to call you directly and instantly. He tags, scans, and it instantly calls you. Ingenious.

When speaking to Mary-Jo last night, I got (a little too) excited, but she simply couldn't see the benefits to it. I, however, can. This tagging system can bridge the online and offline world in a way we haven't seen before.

If you

had the hardware, you could create a new badge every day which had a tag on, describing your current mood. You could have as your personal display picture on an instant messaging program a tag, which provided a URL to a website. You could start a viral campaign on your university campus with an electronic version of treasure hunting.

There is another side to it. Tags could include anything, and even be used as a method of dialling a number. Whilst this is a legitimate way of using a tag, you could easily program into the code a premium-rate number, provide a URL to a website which dishes out pornography, malware, or other unpleasantness. This may well be an exciting research project, but it's open to vulnerabilities.

Forget SQL Server. Forget Windows. Even forget Office, because this tops the lot for me. If marketed correctly, this could take off as the next major big thing. It's available cross platform for the BlackBerry, Symbian phones, Android and the iPhone.

Yes it's a beta. No it won't work perfectly. Yes it may go a little slowly, but it won't kill you to try it.

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