Google introduced a new beta service Tuesday as the first step in the development of a technology that promises to let users print from any device running any operating system or browser, and without installing printer drivers or other special software.
Initially, however, the new Google Cloud Print service is primarily aimed at smartphones that support HTML5, such as handsets running Android 2.1 or higher as well as Apple devices running iOS 3 or above.
Due to today’s proliferation of computing devices — from desktops to netbooks and web tablets to mobile devices — it’s no longer feasible to develop and maintain print subsystems for every conceivable combination of hardware and operating system, noted Google Group Product Manager Mike Jazayeri. Google Cloud Print avoids these potential software bottlenecks by putting all that complexity on the web.
“Using the one component all major devices and operating systems have in common — access to the cloud — Google Cloud Print enables any application on any device to print to any printer,” Jazayeri said. “The value of Google Cloud Print is that it enables any app to easily add printing capabilities and to support it across devices with no additional work.”
Printing from Smartphones
The new beta service rolling out this week to English-speaking users in the United States lets users print mobile documents and Gmail for mobile directly from their smartphones. For example, commuters on their way to work will be able to print documents from their handsets and pick up the printouts when they arrive, noted Google Cloud Print team member Tyler Odean.
“Just open a document in Google Docs or an e-mail in Gmail in your mobile browser and choose Print from the drop-down menu in the top right corner,” Odean wrote in a blog Tuesday. “You can also print certain kinds of e-mail attachments, such as .pdf or .doc, by clicking the Print link that appears next to them.”
To get started, users will need to install the latest beta version of Google Chrome (9.0.597.10) on a PC running Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 that is also connected to the printer that will be the host machine for remote devices. For the rest of us, Linux and Mac support is expected to follow shortly.
To enable the Google Cloud Print connector in Google Chrome, click on the wrench icon in the top right corner and sign in to the user’s Google account. Then select Print to print the web page being viewed, Odean wrote.
Though Google Cloud Print will work with all printers, an even better experience will one day be realized in tandem with a new generation of web-connected printers that are natively cloud aware, Jazayeri noted. Google began working with Hewlett-Packard last year to ensure that Google Cloud Print will work on HP’s latest machines and has been cooperating with a number of other printer manufacturers as well.
For now, the only printers accessible to Google Cloud Print are those connected to a user’s Google account. However, the search giant said it’s working on tools that will eventually enable users to share and control access to printers as easily as they can share files in Google Docs.
Given that Google Cloud Print jobs are submitted and retrieved over a secure HTTPS connection — and are available only to the user and the printer to which the job is submitted — all documents remain strictly confidential. Moreover, Google said it doesn’t access the documents users print for any purpose other than to improve printing.