Printing to the cloud means more than just kissing driver woes goodbye.
Google has a new solution for printing documents in Chrome OS and, by extension, the rest of the web. Instead of installing drivers on your computer for a particular model of printer, Google wants change the way you do your printing with Google Cloud Print.
The service would send print jobs inside the webpage to a Google (dell) hosted server where it would then find the specified printer and translate the file to match its protocol. Google plans to use open standards where possible and expects other third party Cloud printing services to emerge. Interestingly, HP also has a Cloud printing service for mobile devices called CloudPrint. It isn't clear to what extent these two services will overlap.
<!-- more -->
Like HP's offering, the biggest benficiaries of Google's Cloud Print service will be mobile device users, who now don't have a straightforward way of printing.
Theoretically, you could print documents from within your Google Docs or GMail without ever leaving the browser. Whether you are on your phone, your tablet or your laptop, printing will be transparent. Even cameras could use this service to instantly send pictures anywhere in the world.
Google would likely make a desktop application that would allow users to print the way they do today, so you could print your Microsoft Office documents without first uploading them to Google Docs.
As Google is using open standards where they can, other websites can jump on without paying licensing costs. For instance, Snapfish could let you print your photos from inside the browser. Lexis Nexis could allow you to print a PDF. Or even send it to a colleague's Cloud printer.
At the moment, no manufacturers support the new Cloud Printing platform, but it appears that Google has some lined up. In a statement, Google said, "we expect there to be multiple cloud print services, and users should have a choice in which services they use and which printers they can connect to a service. Stay tuned for more details. We are confident that cloud-aware printers will soon be a reality."
Some current networked printers will be upgradable to Cloud printers while others will need to have third-party "Cloud Print Servers" installed. This is a big opportunity for companies like Dlink, Cisco Linksys (csco), Netgear (ntgr), and Belkin.
The biggest upside however, might be for consumers who could finally be spared the ever-changing nightmare of rotating and updating printer drivers as they move from device to device, system to system.
Follow Seth Weintraub on Twitter @llsethj