Next Act for Google: Printing from Any Device to Any Printer
Having made encyclopedias, paper maps, and newspapers redundant, Google is now out to do the same for printer drivers. The search giant said Thursday that it is developing a cloud-based solution for driverless printing from any device.
In a posting on its Chromium Blog, Group Product Manager Mike Jazayeri wrote that "developing and maintaining print subsystems for every combination of hardware and operating system," including the large and growing number of mobile devices, "simply isn't feasible."
He noted that all major computing devices and OSes have one component in common -- access to the cloud. With that in mind, the company is introducing "some preliminary designs" for its Google Cloud Print project, which will be a service that allows any application on "any device to print to any printer."
Google Cloud Print will handle the preparation for the printing and status reporting, with options selected by the user. The computing device, such as a smartphone, uses either a web app or a native, desktop-based app, which calls Google Cloud Print APIs. The APIs show the user interface and job status, and communicates with a "cloud-aware" printer. Alternatively, the API could talk to another cloud-aware device, such as a PC, which then talks to a legacy printer.
While it's still under development, Jazayeri said Google is making the code and documentation publicly available as part of its Chromium and Chromium OS projects.
Although Cloud Print will be a web service provided by Google, the company said it expects that other such services will also evolve. The APIs will also be available to third-party developers to embed into their apps.
The printers are, of course, the biggest issue. Google said dealing with them depends on whether they are cloud-aware or a legacy printer. If a printer has native support for cloud print services, there is no requirement for it to have a PC connection or a printer driver. The company admits one unfortunate fact -- cloud-aware printers don't exist yet. But it said it is "confident" that this open-source initiative will encourage manufacturers to develop open-protocol, cloud-aware printers.
'Every Printer in Existence'
Legacy printers -- which Google acknowledges include "every printer in existence today" -- are not only connected to PCs, or to Ethernet/Wi-Fi networks, but are also the recently released web-enabled printers, such as those from Hewlett Packard. The HP printers are not what Google calls cloud-aware printers, because they don't know how to communicate with a cloud-based print service. To handle legacy printers, some software acting as a proxy would reside on the computer to which a printer is connected.
The proxy, which is being developed for Windows, Mac and Linux, will be distributed with the Google Chrome browser. The Chrome OS will also use Cloud Print for all printing, but the browser can print directly to the cloud without the OS.
Laura DiDio, a research fellow with Information Technology Intelligence Corp., likes the idea of a cloud print service, but said "as with any panacea, there are going to pluses and minuses."
She noted that reducing dependency on printer drivers would be in the plus category, as user management of driver updates, such as for operating systems or new equipment, can become burdensome and complicated.
The minuses, DiDio said, include the fact that one's Internet connection could be unreliable and that the ecosystem seems oriented toward Google's web applications.
Posted: 2010-04-20 @ 7:04am PT
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