As most of you will know, a common problem for any new operating system is hardware support. Drivers don’t grow on trees, and usually need to be written by manufacturers, which costs time and money. Luckily for Chrome OS, it uses the Linux kernel which makes the hardware support question far less problematic. Still, when it comes to printers, the situation is different, and here, Google is trying to achieve something which should’ve been done ages ago.
When you buy a digital camera or a USB peripheral such as keyboards, mice, and sticks, you don’t have to worry about drivers. Manufacturers of those types of products had the common sense to standardise in such a way that you rarely – if ever – have to do any driver hunting.
When it comes to printers, however, it’s all still a mighty mess. Thanks to CUPS, Linux distributions generally provide excellent out-of-the-box printing support, and since at least Windows 7, Microsoft has started to deliver printer drivers through Windows Update (without annoying crapware). Mac OS X used to go the brute force route (install all printer drivers by default) but adopted a more sensible approach with Snow Leopard, where it defaults to installing only drivers for printers on your network. Like Windows, Snow Leopard also started delivering printer drivers through Software Update.
This is all patchwork, however. What you really want is printers to operate in the same way as most USB peripherals – no drivers, built-in support in operating systems using open standards everybody can implement. It seems like Google is in fact working with printer manufacturers
to beat some sense into them to achieve this goal.
Since Chrome OS is supposed to be open source and open standards, it’s plausible to assume that whatever Google is working on might benefit other projects as well. Printer support is always a problem, and not having to install crapware-infested drivers (or no driver at all for those printers that don’t work on Linux) seems like a dream come true.