This month, when you open your issue of Golf Digest magazine, you will notice that a barcode is prominently displayed in some of the articles. Photograph that barcode with your cellphone, and you will be able to get more information about the article's subject, or maybe some related advertising. The barcode is a "Microsoft tag" that the magazine plans to use extensively in the near future.
An article by Tiger Woods about making putts that slide from left to right offers readers a video lesson with Golf Digest senior editor Peter Morrice. A tag accompanying an interview with Michael Jordan takes readers to a video of the photo shoot with the former basketball star and avid golfer.Sounds great, but if you have an iPhone, or perhaps a Google or Palm OS powered smartphone, there's no guarantee that this will work with your gear, or if it does, that it will always work. The reason for that is simple: Microsoft has a long history of rendering their software incompatible with their competitors' products. Some may say that's not necessarily the case, but as a matter of fact, it was proven in court when the US government sued Microsoft, accusing them of anti-competitive monopolistic behavior...and won. Microsoft is preparing to jump into the smartphone software marketplace with both feet, and having additional features like their Microsoft Tags is a competitive advantage.
Not that Microsoft is the only devil in this particular hell of incompatibility. Apple, which makes iPhones and iPods and provides an application called iTunes, regularly reconfigures its own software to lock out other vendors. New Palm Pre owners know all about that - Palm recommends using iTunes to add and remove music from the Pre softphone, and Apple locks them out on an almost weekly basis.
If the Microsoft Tags feature gathers much traction, expect to see competitors jump in and offer their versions -- and thus, the bell rings and the fight starts in earnest. Consumers will both benefit -- and be frustrated by -- the range of choices they will have available.
Little of that has anything to do with golf, but it is interesting to see this new competition starting to take place, with the first shots fired in a golf magazine of all things. The reason for that is only common sense. As an expensive game, golf afacianados are usually fairly affluent, and affluent people tend to have more gadgets like smartphones. Golf is also very friendly to both print and video. All of those factors make Golf Digest a very suitable place for the first shots in this particular battle to take place.