2D barcodes may be everybody's favorite technology that nobody really uses, but Microsoft is suggesting a solution: avoid fragmentation by supporting all possible formats with Microsoft Tag. The company is adding both traditional QR codes and NFC communications to its system, which previously only used the proprietary Tag format. Vendors and brands can now create QR codes and NFC URLs with Microsoft's Tag Manager, while the company positions its updated mobile Tag app as the one barcode reader to rule them all. It is currently available for Windows Phone, iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices, amongst others — though, of course, to take advantage of NFC you'll need a phone equipped with the proper hardware.
Adding QR code support could be seen as a tacit admission of the Tag format's failure, but it also points to the weaknesses of 2D barcodes themselves. Taking a picture of an image to get to a website still feels clunky, and until widespread NFC provides quick-swipe access across multiple platforms, it's hard to see this type of engagement really taking off. In a bit of irony, Windows Phone users will have to wait until 2012 to get that chance, despite recent tweets to the contrary.