Connecting to a printer is usually a pain. You start with trying to get the printer onto the network, continue by looking for the right driver, make sure the computer and printer are actually connected, and hope something will happen. Printing from a tablet or smartphone is even worse as you also navigate through a plethora of apps that all claim to do the same thing. This isn’t how to clean your printer or where to buy printer ink — it’s just trying to get the printer to work! The whole process leaves you wondering why these problems weren’t solved years ago, and why even in 2012, no one has figured out how to make printing easy.
From all appearances, though, the revolution has finally come. Anyone paying attention to changes in technology knows that the biggest story of the last year was the cloud. Free services for storing music, pictures, and files online are increasing by the day, and many tasks can now be done online because of Web 2.0. Now, printing is finally joining the trend.
Cloud printing appeared in a very simple form with HP’s ePrint system. If your printer is enabled for ePrint, you can sign up for a unique email address and any documents or pictures sent to that address will be automatically printed. That means you can do it from anywhere and from any device. Still, the information is not technically stored in the cloud.
Cloud printing came into a mature form through Google. Google’s Cloud Print standard is now being built into some printers so that they are ready to work right out of the box. Plug the printer in, toggle a few settings, and you’re ready to print from anywhere and from any device. What makes this especially impressive is that it doesn’t even require a computer. The printer can finally stand alone, untethered because it receives its information from the cloud.
So what about the 99% of us that don’t have a Cloud Print enabled printer? Google has also made it possible to use any printer connected to a computer with Cloud Print. Using Google Chrome and Google’s Cloud Print webpage, your computer becomes the proxy for the printer. Any documents printed through the cloud first land on your computer and then are automatically printed. Everything will be automatic and simple, as long as your computer is turned on and connected to the printer.
Google has also formed a relationship with FedEx Office so that you can quickly and easily print to any of their retail stores. Once again, the process is painless, and you can print from almost any device.
Here’s where the limitations are. You’ll need to figure out solutions to make each platform work. For instance, you can easily print from Google Chrome, Google Docs, or Android devices (though even this is still technically in Beta). If you want to print from other applications or from iOS, you’ll need a different solution and there are plenty of options. PrintCentral Pro for iOS lets you send webpages, emails, contacts, pictures, and documents to Google Cloud Print. Several applications let you print from Mac OS or from Windows through the normal print dialogue. Still, you’ll have to install them and get them configured before Cloud Print will work.
There’s no question that cloud printing is the way of the future. Once the bugs are worked out and there is broad acceptance of the standard, cloud printing will save all of us a lot of time and headache. In the meantime, enjoy the early results of innovation and stay tuned for more developments!