If computing is going to the cloud, does that include printing? It does in Google's plan. The company has introduced preliminary designs for a project called Google Cloud Print, a service that would allow any desktop, web, or mobile app on any device to print to any printer that the user sets up.
"Rather than rely on the local operating system (or drivers) to print, apps can use Google Cloud Print to submit and manage print jobs," explains product manager Mike Jazayeri. "Google Cloud Print will then be responsible for sending the print job to the appropriate printer with the particular options the user selected, and returning the job status to the app."
It's important to understand that Google Cloud Print is in the early stages of development, and there's no telling when it might become available, but Google has released all the documentation and code as part of its open source Chromium and Chromium OS projects.
My guess is that they will want to make something available before too long, as the release of the Google Chrome OS devices gets closer. In case you don't remember, that's Google's web-based operating system, on which all applications on a device are run from the cloud.
"While the emergence of cloud and mobile computing has provided users with access to information and personal documents from virtually any device, today’s printers still require installing drivers which makes printing impossible from most of these new devices. Developing and maintaining print subsystems for every combination of hardware and operating system-- from desktops to netbooks to mobile devices -- simply isn't feasible," says Jazayeri. "Since in Google Chrome OS all applications are web apps, we wanted to design a printing experience that would enable web apps to give users the full printing capabilities that native apps have today."
Google says it will have more information to share about which Google products will use Google Cloud Print in the coming months. The company will eventually offer an API for any app to use it.
The company expects "cloud aware" printers to become standard, although it acknowledges that none exist today. Google says it will engage with the printer OEM community in the coming months to help drive the effort forward.
For regular printers, users will be able to install a print proxy on their PCs to enable functionality with Google Cloud Print.