Thursday, December 14, 2006

Microsoft Unveils AURA.... A Bar Code Scanning Application For Mobile

When the words bar code, mobile and Microsoft are used in the same sentence, you know a big opportunity is coming.

It's time to officially add Microsoft to the Physical World Connection list with this announcement.

While Google is focusing on creating content, what about the content that already exists?
Microsoft is offering the ability to create AND link to new and existing "content", the physical world.

Google is concentrating on the PC world, Mister Softee recognizes the big opportunity lies with the mobile because there will be more mobile phones with Internet access than PCs.

Because Microsoft's AURA provides the ability to connect the billions of physical world hyperlinks that ALREADY exist (instead of creating new 2D codes, QR codes), this application could tip the playing field for the mobile marketing space.

The camera and RFID scanner on your mobile phone are your "mouse" and every physical object has, or will have, a physical world hyperlink, Phase 2 of the Internet begins.

In October, Microsoft disrupted the Physical World Connection space when they unveiled their beta 2D Code application called Windows Live Barcode that allows users to create their own 2D code and connect various physical objects to the Internet. Just install decoder software on handsets and capture QR Code via a built-in camera

Today Microsoft yakes another big step to dominate the Physical World Connection space and is allowing people with Windows Mobile operating system to download Advanced User Resource Annotation (AURA).

The big news here is that Microsoft is offering the ability to connect with both a 1D (bar code) and 2D code (physical world hyperlinks). 1D codes are already on billions of products, 2D codes are rapidly becoming the standard for many industries.

Physical world hyperlinks are being called The Next Big Internet Trend

People with an AURA-enabled device would use its digital camera to snap the bar code on a product.

AURA then would deliver several links and search results about the item to the handheld computer. A consumer might learn whether the same product is available for a lower price elsewhere, for example, or whether the item was manufactured in a country with controversial labor practices.

Microsoft is now providing the "dial tone" and Internet access for billions of products. The mobile marketing applications are endless.

Download the AURA Mobile Client

Marc Smith, a researcher in Microsoft's community technologies group, acknowledges that "history is littered with efforts in this regard. This is not really a brand new idea at all."

He cites, for example, failed devices such as the CueCat, which could read bar codes in newspapers and magazines and send their users' PCs directly to affiliated Web pages.

Complimenting the ability to scan/connect the physical world hyperlinks 1D code and 2D codes, Microsoft is developing an RFID browser and an application to connect images Photo2Search . Photo2Search gives users a way to search a Web-based database by using nothing more than an image captured by a cellphone equipped with a digital camera.

There are many other physical world hyperlinks that will allow a mobile device to scan and connec to the Internet. One that is used everyday is the fingerprint.

While Google has made some progress in the physical world connection space, Microsoft continues to offer applications for the next Phase of the Internet, a much bigger one.

If I was Google, want to know what I would do?


Anonymous said...

Kind of ironic, isn't it, how Microsoft launches this product code reading application so soon after you posted a paean to Scanbuy.

You asked, "if innovation instead of litigation would have allowed quicker adoption".

Well, if there were no patents on the concept, what's to stop Microsoft from swooping in at any time it chooses, and running all small companies like Scanbuy and Neomedia out of the market, without giving them a dime of compensation for their efforts in promoting the concept?

You see, you may not imagine you are doing so, but if eliminate patents from the field, you are being the bestest buddy in the world to Microsoft, and allowing it to take over markets that it has had NOTHING to do with in innovating. Absent patents, what's to prevent Microsoft or other dominant companies from taking over these markets forever?

Even if litigation temporarily slows down a bit the adoption of a technology -- a point which the example of Scanbuy hardly makes evident, since most camera phones are inherently unable to read linear bar codes -- isn't it vastly more productive of innovation if at least the true pioneers of a technology, who own basic patents, are able to maintain a business in the world in virtue of their patents?

Otherwise, you are basically arguing that Microsoft can be counted on to be the final source of all important innovations in that market -- a belief that its history of simple copying hardly would suggest.

Scott Shaffer said...

I agree with you regarding patents.

However, until specific IP is confirmed/validated in court, and before industry adoption, you're just begging for others to find ways around it.

There is a much bigger picture developing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Scott,

AURA has actually been around for a long time and Marc is one brainy dude. Sad though that they've taken this approach:

"A.U.R.A. requires close, focused pictures of barcodes to convert the image into a decoded string. Many Windows Mobile devices have cameras that cannot focus at the close distances required by A.U.R.A. To work around this you can apply an A.U.R.A. Lens Kit to your phone. We will send a lens kit to anyone who sends a self-addressed stamped envelope to:"

Jukka Eklund said...

Too bad the AURA site seems to be down. Similar to what happened to the Live Barcode site right after launch.

Nokia's Barcode Reader is already available and built-in in Nokia N93. Downloads for N73 and N80 will be available shortly. And it won't stop there..