AMITIAE - Wednesday 21 December 2011
Microsoft Tag App: Not a Bad Job (but some oddities from Redmond)
I had written initially on this app when investigating the early (then) use of QR codes and the apps that were available for the iPhone in early January 2010. Part of what I wrote then was:
Microsoft unsurprisingly takes a different approach. While we are not known for support of Redmond in this column, when Microsoft does something well, it can be valuable. There are questions, however, over any future move from beta status.
Update to Version 5.5In the interim the interface has changed considerably, but now the whole app takes on a newer usefulness. Despite the good idea that the Microsoft Tag system actually is, it failed to take off -- too many steps perhaps with registration and entering data online -- and the QR codes, for all their limitations, are quite widely available these days.
The app opens with a Scan button prominently displayed. A (clean) History line is below and lower down two icons for a check of local weather and an MSN link. As seems inevitable with Microsoft, even finding out the weather takes a couple of jumps as it accesses the Bing servers -- but see below -- and (once set up) offers links to weather plus other services. The background is an image that changes each access time. At the top of this "weather" panel is a Bing search window and below that the last location with a "Locate Me" button which works quite quickly if the device has been relocated.
When a page was loaded, the bottom of the screen showed 5 tool icons: a back arrow to return to the home (Scan) screen; a Flag icon which would create a separate entry in a "Flagged Items" list; an Export arrow (Facebook, Twitter, email); three dots (...) which offered to refresh or open the page in the browser; and full screen arrows which displayed the content without the toolbar. Flagged items were not cached and did still need to be accessed online.
CommentWhile I was quite enthusiastic about the Microsoft solution and their Tag system when I first tried them out (see above), I am quite pleased with the way the app has been given this makeover. Now both types of code can be scanned with the single app and cleverly this increase in functions integrates with other services that Microsoft offers, such as MSN and Bing.
But here I also have a problem with the way Microsoft operates in distant lands such as this. In the last month, Redmond has released a number of apps such as Sky Drive (an alternative for Dropbox), an iPad version of OneNote and Kinectimals. Of these only the Dropbox alternative can be downloaded from the local iTunes App Store as well as an earlier app called Photosynth.
It gets worse (or at least, more confusing) as we may use Bing as an online search tool here; and this latest version of the Tag app also relies heavily on Bing which we understand Microsoft is trying to push heavily. However, while I have this access to the search engine, the Bing app is another of those unavailable here, although it was when first released. It is installed on my iPhone and any updates are also downloaded. On/Off, Yes/No/No/No/Yes. . . .
Tag is a useful app: have a look.
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