Cloud Printing: Is it more than just a fad?
Back before cloud printing actually had solutions up and running it was thought that cloud printing could be used just for the really important absolutely-must-be-printed documents. These cloud printers would be placed at convenient locations and connected to the Internet so that people could just pull their documents saved earlier to the cloud and do the printing from there, minus the hassle of having to manually connect a computer. The main plus factor at the time was that it would mean any Internet connected device would be able to print to a cloud printer (including smartphones and tablets) from anywhere in the world (like what Skype did for the telephone call but for the fax). HP was the first to take a crack at it with their ePrint cloud-enabled printers but other players have since joined as well. This includes Epson,Kodak and more recently Lexmark.
Google Cloud Print unifies everything
Each cloud printer brand had its own firmware, own online cloud service and own set of cloud apps. This led to some fragmentation of cloud printing but not for very long as Google released their Cloud Print service. All of these Cloud-enabled printers scrambled to provide support but since enabling for the Cloud is so easy (I know, patting ourselves on the back here, but I just couldn’t resist, especially since its true!) Google Cloud Print was announced to be compatible with HP, Epson and Kodak cloud printers. Granted, the service works best with Google related technologies such as Google Docs, Google Chromebooks and Android smartphones but even iOS phones get an app and classic printers still connected via the USB port can still connect to the cloud using Google Cloud Print.
Where it stands now
As one of the few reviewers to get a hands-on try with one of HP’s ePrint printers when it first came out, I was wowed by the potential of it all. Admittedly, the service was somewhat flawed in that it could only handle certain file types and had little to no formatting options at the time, but the potential to send a color document from one end of the world to another at no cost and from even your smartphone was simply astounding. Unfortunately, initial response wasn’t very encouraging and I didn’t hear much news about response regarding such Cloud-enabled printers for quite some time.
However, a few days back, Google proudly announced that over six million cloud-enabled printers have now joined the Google Cloud Print service. I’m not sure if this is just the figure based on the cloud-enabled printers connected in Google’s own offices, but it does seem to mark another beginning for Cloud-enabled printers and Cloud printing in general. With many more printer industry players joining the fray its becoming less and less of a fad and more of an eventuality. While initial costs were just a bit higher than your average classic printer, the current costs for a cloud-enabled printer should have been defrayed somewhat due to all the healthy competition.
Hmm … why aren’t you using it yet?
With the issues of device availability and cost both neatly addressed, its only a matter of time before cloud printing becomes common in the workplace. If it hasn’t in yours and you’re one of the IT decision-makers in the office then it should certainly come in handy, especially since you don’t actually need a new cloud-enabled printer to get started. There is no mention of ‘fees’ or ‘payment’ in the Google Cloud Print terms of service so extra costs shouldn’t be an obstacle. What may have started out as a fad is definitely a serious contender now, so do give it a go and see what you can do with it before you eventually have to pay for it.
By Muzaffar Ismail