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Microsoft Finds Home for Barcode Technology

Microsoft Corp. has finally found a taker for a colorful barcode technology the company shelved two years ago because it failed to catch on.

Microsoft said this week that the small square symbols, filled with red, green, yellow and black triangles, will appear on DVD and video game cases later this year, thanks to a licensing deal with the ISAN International Agency. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Geneva-based organization assigns codes to movies and other works and keeps a database about each title -- director, cast members, release date, for instance.

Once the group starts issuing the barcodes, studios and producers will be able to link their Web sites to that database. One day, consumers might use a digital camera to "scan" barcodes on DVD cases, in advertisements and on billboards, then be transported to a Web page to watch trailers or buy products.

Initially, the barcodes will work only with webcams and digital cameras, as cell phone cameras can't take a clear enough photo, Microsoft said. The company also said movie producers, TV networks and other content creators will have to figure out what, if anything, the consumer will see online.

Gavin Jancke, the Microsoft researcher who invented the colorful barcode, said the United States would eventually catch up with Japan, where it's common to see people snapping photos of giant barcodes posted on billboards.

Past U.S. efforts to link barcodes with the Web failed -- CueCat in the 1990s, for example. This time, Jancke said the technology may have a shot thanks to the rise of cell phone cameras, broadband connections and even the way people think about the Internet.

"Tagging real-world objects to something more meaningful, this is what's kind of happening in the culture," Jancke said.

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