Mobile barcodes are big in Asia, but haven’t taken off here. Why not? One big reason: Software to read the codes — which you’re supposed to do with your mobile phone, so that you can get to a Web site/coupon, etc. — isn’t preinstalled on most phones, which means most people will never use it.
That’s starting to change. Today, NYC-based Scanbuy says its ScanLife software will start getting preinstalled on all of Samsung’s camera phones, starting in Europe as early as next month. Eventually its supposed to make it to the United States. Samsung is the world’s no. 2 mobile phone maker behind Nokia (NOK), and could sell 200 million phones this year. So this is good news for Scanbuy, and potentially good news for Google (GOOG), which is trying to make mobile barcodes a big part of its newspaper ad campaigns. (Note: While ScanLife can read and process the “QR” codes that Google is pushing, Scanbuy is betting on a different format called EZ Codes.)
Three big what-ifs:
- Wireless carriers, which sell the majority of phones in the U.S., could easily remove the ScanLife software from Samsung phones if they want to, either because they have different software they want you to have to use, or because they think mobile barcodes are a waste of time. Or they may not remove the software, but they not feature it on the phone’s “deck” which is pretty much like removing it.
- Getting something like mobile barcodes to work requires buy-in from a lot of parties: If they’re not included in advertising, content, Web sites, wherever, no one’s going to be able to try them out. Which means the software would be useless clutter.
- Barcode readers don’t have the greatest track record in the U.S.; we remind you again of CueCat, the mouse-shaped gadget pushed by Forbes and Time.
Tech’s Forgotten Brands: CueCat
Google’s Newspaper Ads: Big Hopes For Small Barcodes
Will Google Make Scanbuy A Mobile Barcode Winner?
AT&T Wants To Turn Your Cell Phone Into A Coupon Reader
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