Two-dimensional bar codes are one of those futuristic technologies that always seem to be on the brink of a breakthrough, but never make it.

Promotion from Microsoft ( MSFT - news - people ), one of the biggest technology companies in the world, could help. Starting this fall, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant plans to incorporate bar codes into its Xbox videogames as part of a broad marketing initiative. "[Bar codes] enable advertisers to continue their conversations with consumers across any media [whether] posters, book covers, store displays or screens," says Mark Kroese, general manager of entertainment and devices advertising for Microsoft.

Streamline clients' tracking and information gathering while adding heft to your paycheck. Say your customer wants to track his inventory as it moves through the chain of production, but all you have to offer are plain-old traditional forms. What do you do? If you're smart you'll find a manufacturer who prints bar-coded labels and not only will you have a happy customer, you'll have a whole new product niche to explore. Though it's been more than 30 years since the nearly ubiquitous product made its debut, bar codes are still often overlooked. Perhaps this is because bar codes seem confusing or, in

The ubiquitous bar code label is a necessity for distributors' portfolios. While bar-coded labels are a small segment of manufacturers' bottom lines, it is important that they are not overlooked by distributors. "Bar codes are a low percentage of overall sales, but their contribution to profit is higher," said John Shanley, president of Labels West, Woodinville, Wash. As interest in the product grows and equipment prices plummet, manufacturers are seeing a spike in on-demand bar coded labels. "Today a great deal of variable printing is done by the end-user," said John Strecker, vice president of sales and marketing for Data Label, Terre

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