posted by Thom Holwerda on Fri 16th Apr 2010 14:11 UTC
IconOne of the major problems Google is facing with its Chrome OS is printer support. It was reported earlier that Google is working with manufacturers on making printers act similar to for instance digital cameras, so you won't need to fiddle with drivers any longer. It turns out Google has indeed been working on this, but I don't think the solution they unveiled today is what everyone had in mind - despite that, I'm seeing the value here.

My understanding was that Google would work with manufacturers to eliminate the need for special purpose drivers, instead opting for an open standards-based approach, which has worked wonders for the world of digital cameras. This would give all platforms the opportunity to work with printers without having the need to download drivers, thereby eliminating one of the many reasons why I believe printers are from hell.

Google is indeed aiming for something like that, but being Google, they had to cram the internet in somewhere, and Google Cloud Print, as the name suggests, is no exception. Basically, Google is aiming to put the printer stack on the internet, so that not each and every platform has to create its own print stack and print drivers.

"With the proliferation of web-connected mobile devices such as those running Google Chrome OS and other mobile operating systems, we don't believe it is feasible to build and maintain complex print subsystems and print drivers for each platform," Google writes, "In fact, even the print subsystems and drivers on existing PC operating systems leave a lot of room for improvement."

"Our goal is to build a printing experience that enables any app (web, desktop, or mobile) on any device to print to any printer anywhere in the world," Google continues, "This goal is accomplished through the use of a cloud print service. Apps no longer rely on the local operating system (and drivers) to print. Instead, apps (whether they be a native desktop/mobile app or a web app) use Google Cloud Print to submit and manage print jobs. Google Cloud Print is then responsible for sending the print job to the appropriate printer, with the particular options the user selected, and providing job status to the app."

And here come the problems. While Google is working to get manufacturers to support Google Cloud Print out of the box (i.e., the printer is Google Cloud Print-aware), legacy printers will continue to rely on the native print stack and drivers. In other words, this is a future-oriented solution, and doesn't do anything to address the problem of printer makers being wholly and utterly incompetent morons who couldn't create a desirable product if their life depended on it missing printer drivers for non-Windows platforms (my Lexmark printer has no Linux-drivers).

Another possible issue here is, of course, the whole internet-based thing. How will this work if you don't have an internet connection up? The internet shits itself every now and then, and then needs to clean its trousers - will I still be able to print if that happens?

Whatever the answer, Google Cloud Print needs to fart shards of poisoned glass in my face before it can be classified as worse than printing today. The project's code is not yet released, as it is not ready yet, but I'm happy Google is trying to move the world of printing forward after decades of incompetence from the likes of Lexmark, Canon, and HP.

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