When Google first showed off Chrome OS, it made a simple but bold pledge, it would not run any native app, at all. The browser is the only native application that the user will have access to, everything else is in the cloud. It sounds like an enticing option, but many pointed out that the market was not yet ready for this, there isn’t a cloud alternative to everything your plain, old computer can do. And there are some things that you just couldn’t do in the cloud, naysayers argued, with one obvious example being printing.
At the time, Google said that, while Chrome OS would not have any support for printers, printing would be available, using the cloud no less. Many speculated how this might actually work, but there’s no need to wonder anymore, Google has unveiled its plans for universal ‘cloud printing.’
“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. 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,” Mike Jazayeri, group product manager at Google, explained.
Chrome OS won’t have native printing support
The idea sounds interesting enough, but it does come with a few caveats. Chrome OS is based on Linux, which does actually have a pretty solid support for most printers out there. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s better than nothing. It wouldn’t have been much of a problem for Google to implement support for printing, on a driver level.
But it would have had to make some sort of GUI for this, which would have meant a native app, unless it built it into the browser. That’s a big no-no in Chromium OS. So, Google came up with cloud printing. It sounds good in theory, printing from any device, Chrome OS netbooks included, to any printer in the world. It almost sounds too good to be true.
Cloud printing is not the magical solution it seems
However, even when and if Google manages to pull this off, the project is in the early stages for now, it’s not the magical solution to printer problems, which we’ve all had on any operating system, it may seem. Because, in the end, one machine is going to need to have the drivers and apps to make printing possible. So, Google is just moving responsibility for that from Chrome OS to another OS. Not the most sporting of solutions.
There’s the option of a ‘cloud-aware’ printer, which Google touts in its PR material, but these devices aren’t exactly mainstream at the moment, to say the least. Still, Chrome OS is to be a long-term project, it only comes out late this year and will be Google’s workhorse for years to come. Things will change, printers will get smarter.
Print from your mobile phone
But ‘cloud’ printing goes beyond Chrome OS and this is where its greatest strength lies. In theory, it would enable any device, mobile phones, set-top boxes, even Internet-enabled TVs to have printing capabilities. In fact, the device itself is completely taken out of the picture, printing will be built into the web apps themselves. That actually sounds like a very interesting promise, but we’re still a couple of years or more away from it becoming a reality on a larger scale.