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It has been 18 months since we launched Microsoft Tag, Microsoft’s mobile barcode technology. In that time, more than one billion Tags have been printed by people and businesses all over the world. In the month of April alone, more than 20 million magazines with Tags were in the hands of U.S. consumers.

Today, I am thrilled to announce Tag is coming out of beta and that basic use of Tags will be free of charge. This specifically means you will be able to generate and use Tags that link to our standard scenarios and use the reader application at no cost. By simply going to Tag.Microsoft.com, you can create Tags and deliver rich interactive experiences on mobile phones, track your Tags and read about how companies like Conde Nast and others are using Tag.

Based on feedback we’ve heard from businesses using Tag, we also plan to offer the ability to create richer, more powerful, and more effective solutions and experiences through a variety of value-added services, such as advanced reporting and analytics and real-time location services. We will add these and other value-added features over time.

What does this transition mean for Tag? Let me step back for a moment to explain how we got here. Since launching Tag, users have told us that they love how it opens doors for them to access rich digital experiences that enhance their lives. Businesses have told us that with Tag, they can reach a deeper level of engagement with their customers. Time and time again, we’ve gotten the message that people around the world are ready for the broad deployment of this technology.

We’ve already seen a lot of enthusiasm for Tag among marketers, developers and consumers as well as a diverse range of creative scenarios using Tag—in industries as varied as publishing, advertising, retail, real estate, transit, automotive, consumer packaged goods, tourism and entertainment. Whether it’s Golf Digest demonstrating the perfect swing, Fearless Records connecting fans to new music and info about their favorite bands, Avatar showcasing its movie trailer, or a Tag on your morning box of Wheaties, Tag is increasingly making the world around us clickable.

Just this week, Amsterdam became the second city with a Tag-led tour, with Tags on monuments, museums, restaurants, bars, and other landmarks. The Mall of America, in Minnesota, just announced plans to use Tag to help enhance customer engagement and give retailers an interactive tool to promote their products. These are just a few examples, and by staying connected through our blog and Tag communities on Facebook and Twitter, you can discover many more ways to use Tag to increase the effectiveness of your marketing and create a powerful experience for your customers.

Coming out of beta we’ve updated our website, the Tag Campaign Manager and improved our Tag Reader clients and also introduced some cool new features that will enhance customers’ ability to create, execute and track creative Tag campaigns:

  • A device ID feature will allow marketers to deliver a more personalized consumer experience across multiple Tags. For example, consumers can now receive customized content, such as a coupon or other offer from a retail outlet, based on Tags they’ve previously scanned
  • A new .tag file format will make it easier to print and manage a large number of different Tags as part of a broad campaign deployment. Developers of professional printing programs can now generate the Tag graphic on the fly as part of their solution
  • Tag has always been available worldwide and has been distributed and deployed globally. We have added localization in five new languages which include: French, Spanish, Turkish, Simplified Chinese, Italian
  • And finally, we will be introducing a beta Heat Map feature in the next few days, available in the Tag Campaign Manager, that will help companies better measure Tag usage by location and make more informed decisions about their Tag campaigns and overall marketing spend

You can find more about how to implement these features and more over at the Microsoft Tag website.

Just imagine a world where any physical object can become a gateway to a world of digital content and engagement: You scan a product in a newspaper, get a personalized offer, buy it on the spot, or get directions to the store to buy it later; Or you scan a poster for a play, see a preview of the performance, invite friends, and buy tickets. This is what Tag can do for you, for your users, for your marketing campaign, and for your business. All you have to do is simply click on things in your physical world to make your world interactive on the spot.

-Aaron Getz, General Manager, Microsoft Tag

The Tag Reader localized in Simplified Chinese: