Google has outlined its plans for a service that would let internet-connected devices send print jobs to any 'cloud-aware' printer.
Google Cloud Print will require printers to be cloud-aware either by having firmware that allows interoperability with cloud-based printing services or via a proxy installed on the PC to which the printer is connected. The service will be the only way to print anything while using the company's upcoming Chrome OS operating system, Google said on Thursday.
Nobody makes cloud-aware printers yet, so Google will be bundling proxies for the service with its Chrome browser. A Windows proxy is being developed, and Google has plans to create proxies for Linux and Mac systems too.
"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," Google product manager Mike Jazayeri wrote in a blog on Thursday. "Developing and maintaining print subsystems for every combination of hardware and operating system — from desktops to netbooks to mobile devices — simply isn't feasible."
As all applications used in Chrome OS will be web apps, they will require the printing capabilities of native apps, Jazayeri explained. "Using the one component all major devices and operating systems have in common — access to the cloud — today we're introducing some preliminary designs for a project called Google Cloud Print, a service that enables any application — web, desktop, or mobile — on any device to print to any printer," he wrote.
Google intends to release application programming interfaces (APIs) for Cloud Print. The APIs will let any type of application — web or native — print through the service. Third-party developers will be able to use the service in their own apps.
According to Google's documentation, users will associate their printers with the service through their Google accounts. "Printers are treated in much the same way as documents are in Google Docs," the documentation reads. "Therefore, it is very easy to share printers with your coworkers, friends and family anywhere in the world."
The company indicated in its documentation that it hopes other parties will contribute to its cloud printing scheme. It wants the firmware for legacy printers to be updated, to make them cloud-aware where possible. It said it also wants someone to build proxies-in-a-box ("like routers with print server abilities") so users will no longer have to have their legacy printers hooked up to powered-on PCs if they want to use Cloud Print.
The preliminary code and documentation for Cloud Print is available now as part of Google's open-source Chromium and Chromium OS projects.
Google is not the first company to consider the possibilities of printing through the cloud. HP said a year ago that it was working on such an architecture, but it has not yet shown off the results.