Computer users who hate installing a new driver for each printer they use might want to keep an eye on the Google Cloud Print project. The folks at Mountain View have unveiled early designs for a service that would allow any web, desktop or mobile application on any device to print to any printer.
Google Cloud Print alone would submit and manage print job requests, by matching print jobs to appropriate printers with the user-specified options ("Four copies, black ink only"). This being part of Google's Chromium OS projects, the code and documentation are also public here.
Having the ability to use any printer in the cloud from your smartphone or laptop sounds good for convenience, but might still run into challenges when it comes to implementation. Google notes that the management user interface will allow users to view only printers that they have registered, or printers that have been shared with them.
That at least might prevent freeloaders from running hog wild, but at what cost to Google's promise of easy-breezy printer access anywhere? We imagine there's a bit of a balance to be found there.But perhaps the biggest question is how "legacy" printers, aka every printer in existence today, fit into Google's vision. Google says that a small proxy piece of software will be available for anyone with Google Chrome installed on their computer, so that it can register legacy printers with Google Cloud Print. A Windows version is currently in the works, with Mac and Linux coming at some unspecified later date.
Google ultimately wants device makers to come out with "cloud-aware" printers which don't require print drivers or even a PC connection. Such standalone printers would simply be registered with cloud print services, and voila.
"We are confident that cloud-aware printers will soon be a reality," says the Google Cloud Print team. For their vision to come true, they better hope so.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.