Google Cloud Print: A 2001 solution to a 2011 problem

Summary:The idea of printing a document from your smartphone directly to a printer at home or the office is a good one. And I applaud Google for trying to meet this need.

The idea of printing a document from your smartphone directly to a printer at home or the office is a good one. And I applaud Google for trying to meet this need.

But there's no way that today's release of Google Cloud Print is getting a thumbs up from me. The company should have kept this product in the lab and waited until it was ready. Clearly, it's not.

Let's break down the reasons why:

First and foremost, the printer has to be connected to a computer for this feature to work. Let's put aside for a second that it has to be a Windows machine - not a huge deal because Mac and Linux support is coming.

But, in an age where laptops dominate and home networks are commonplace, how many people actually still keep a computer and printed physically attached to each other? At my home, the printer is a standalone device on the wireless network, accessible to the several computers connected to that network. I know I'm not the only one.

(Is that supposed to be a desktop computer in that image to the right?)

Second, the company's blog post says that the service "allows printing from any app on any device, OS or browser without the need to install drivers" - except that you have to "enable" the Google Cloud Print connector in the latest version of Chrome for it to work.

Call it a "connector" if you'd like - but that sounds an awful lot like a driver to me. And, requiring the latest version of Chrome for it to work doesn't sound much like "any device, OS or browser."

Third, the company talks about printing from any app - but then, in its explanation of how it works, instructs users to go to gmail.com from the iPhone or Android browser to print.

So, there's no support for the Gmail app? Users who read their mail in the app will have to go launch the browser, direct it to gmail.com, open the email again and then print?  And, as much as I hate to split hairs, printing from an iPhone or Android device is hardly the same as printing from "any device."

Finally, the computer at home or in the office must be powered on and the user must be logged on for the print to take place - otherwise, it will print when you arrive and plug in, according to the FAQ about the service. For that matter, I could just print it when I get back to the office and am sitting near the printer.

In most instances, I'm bullish on the products and services that Google rolls out, even those that are incomplete, still working their way out of Labs or are launched in "beta." I want to be bullish on Google Cloud Print, too - but I just can't be.

This product needs way more work for it to be taken seriously. Google should either take this product back its drawing board or slap a BETA label on it in flashing red letters so we know what we're really getting into.

Topics: Google, Banking, Browser, Data Management, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Printers, Software

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.