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Windows Live Barcode

Microsoft has unveiled the latest Windows Live product: Barcode. Windows Live Barcode lets you create a two-dimensional bar code encoded with all of the information normally found on a business card, or even containing a personal message (up to 450 characters). Because it is merely a two-color image, it can be saved as a tiny little PNG you can share with no worries about bandwidth.

Here is my business card:

Nathan bar code.png

What’s this for? There’s supposed to be a Live Barcode application for Windows Mobile devices that will let you take pictures of cards or anything that has a Live Barcode on it. The app will decode the bar code. If it is text, you’ll be able to save it. If it is a business card, you will be able to view the information, edit any of it, and automatically import all of the information into your address book.

That means I could go to a conference, wear my Live Barcode around my neck, and just let other take pictures of my li’l image. Great way to save on business cards, and definitely the future, assuming they can gain enough traction on it. Luckily for everyone, the code generated is known as a QR Code, an accepted industry standard not owned by Microsoft, and really popular in Japan.

There are some really crappy programs to read QR Codes on Windows Mobile devices, so you’ll have to wait for Microsoft’s to come out to get some quality. For now, try out QuickMark, which works on a large number of Windows Mobile phones, if you can find a compatible variant. If you have the HTC Wizard/T-Mobile MDA like I do, the version for the 818 Pro is for you, although you will need to hold your phone upside down (don’t ask).

Could be a lot of fun. Someone just please find me some decent software, or Windows Live better start shipping soon. I’m excited about the possibilities.
(via LiveSide)

October 27th, 2006 Posted by | General, Live, Windows, Windows Mobile | 8 comments

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  1. Yeah, the first time I saw one of these 2D-barcodes I was surprised that they weren’t used more often – after all, they can hold a lot more information than the 1D kind.

    But isn’t this stuff patented? Or did Microsoft just license it? Ah well, guess it’s not important. Right?

    Comment by Tim | October 27, 2006

  2. Interestingly, the QR code is an international ISO standard. Microsoft didn’t invent it, has no control over it, and many other companies are trying to push adoption of it in the United States. Other companies have competing 2D barcodes, but once Microsoft throws its full support behind QR, along with software on the millions of Windows Mobile devices, it’ll be all over.

    Comment by Nathan Weinberg | October 29, 2006

  3. QR code is used widely for mobile phones in Japan. However it is not well suited to phones outside Japan due to differences in phone optics. All Japanese phones that scan it require special macro focus lenses. It will not work well with standard optics.

    QR was created for shipping containers in the Japanese automotive industry. The code is inefficient in the way that it encodes data. Thus for the codes to be read with a standard cell phone the codes have to be too big to be practical unless one can shrink them down then use the macro lens to be able to get them into focus. As a great example see the business card. This is too big to fit onto a standard business card and still be read with a standard phone.

    In addition the codes have to be square thus they do not fit well in many print situations.

    After five years of working with QR and other industrial code formats, my firm Nextcode,, created a much more advanced 2D code format that is specially designed for mobile use. It is between 60-75% more data efficient than QR. It is much faster to read and provides better usability. Plus, it has flexible shapes, colors, and design formats.

    I encourage you to check it out. We provide a free code publishing tool at There are also directions on how to download free reader software.

    Comment by Jim Levinger | October 29, 2006

  4. Sweet, I got the quickmark software and was able to grab your business card right off the screen!

    Top tip about which one works on the Wizard!

    Comment by Dan Miles | October 30, 2006

  5. Hi, QuickMark does not only support Microsoft windows mobile devices. Now, you can read the barcode via your webcam too!

    Comment by Rex Tsai | November 16, 2006

  6. Unfortunately, Windows Live Barcode has been down for some time now. Anyone know what’s up?

    I recently started a blog on the topic of 2-dimensional camera phone readable codes. If you are interested, please stop by and check it out at

    Thanks – David

    Comment by David | November 22, 2006

  7. Thanks, David, I hadn’t noticed it went down. I’ll try to find out what happened.

    Comment by Nathan Weinberg | November 22, 2006

  8. [...] Windows Live Barcode? Well, looks like Microsoft realized that it didn’t make sense as a Live service, taken it [...]

    Pingback by » Microsoft Fine-Tuning Branding »  InsideMicrosoft - part of the Blog News Channel | April 17, 2007

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