Microsoft Tag is an implementation of HCCB using 4 colors in a 5 x 10 grid. This yields 105 bits, or 13 bytes, of raw data. The print size can be varied to allow reasonable reading by a mobile cameraphone; for example, a Tag on a real estate sign might be printed large enough to be read from a car driving by, whereas a Tag in a magazine could be smaller because the reader would likely be nearer.
A Microsoft Tag is essentially a machine readable web link ,analogous to a TinyURL link: when read, the Tag application sends the HCCB data to a Microsoft server, which then returns the publisher's intended URL. The Tag reader then directs the user's mobile browser to the appropriate website. Because of this redirection, Microsoft is also able to provide Tag analytics to publishers.
HCCB uses a grid of colored triangles to encode data. Depending on the target use, the grid size (total number of symbols), symbol density (the printed size of the triangles), and symbol count (number of colors used) can be varied. HCCB can use either a 4-color or 8-color system. Laboratory tests using standard off-the-shelf print (inkjet or color laser) and scan (600dpi business card scanner) technology has yielded readable 8-color HCCBs equivalent to approximately 3,500 characters per square inch.
Users can download the free Microsoft Tag reader application to their Internet-capable mobile device with camera, launch the reader and read a tag using their phone’s camera. Depending on the scenario, this triggers the intended content to be displayed. Some GPS-equipped phones can, at the user's option, send coordinate data along with the HCCB data, allowing location-specific information to be returned (e.g. for a restaurant advertisement, a navigational map to the nearest location could be shown.
The Microsoft Tag API allows anyone to create Tag from the web, the desktop, mobile devices. By using the Microsoft Tag Web Services API, you can programmatically access many of the same operations used on the Microsoft Tag Web site. Using Visual Studio and the .Net Framework, you can write programs to create, modify, and otherwise manage Tags for your business — including bulk Tag creation and updates — without having to use the Microsoft Tag Web site interface.
The Microsoft Tag application gives people the ability to use a mobile phone's on-board camera to take a picture of a tag, and be directed to information in any form, such as text, vCard, URL, Online Photos, Online Video or contact details for the publisher.
Two-dimensional tags can be used to transform traditional marketing media (for example, print advertising, billboards, packaging and merchandising in stores or on LCDs) into gateways for accessing information online. Tags can be applied as gateways from any type of media to an internet site or online media.
Microsoft Tag is available via a free beta download for commercial publishers and the general public in the United States starting Jan. 7, 2009; it will roll out in other countries at a later date.
The Microsoft Tag reader application is a free download for an Internet-capable mobile device with a camera, available at http://gettag.mobi. A detailed list of all supported phones is available at http://www.microsoft.com/tag.
The Microsoft Tag reader application is free to download and use. Standard carrier rates apply to the data sessions and download time on the mobile device. Those fees are dependent on the consumer’s data plan with the carrier. During the beta, the creation of tags for both commercial and noncommercial use is also free.
Since the tag does not have the information itself but a pointer to a information repository, a Internet connection is mandatory for its use.
The information repository is hosted only by Microsoft who eventually could charge publishers for using its storage and services (e.g. analytics).
The technology is currently patent pending in US.