From the horse’s mouth
A function that most of us who own smartphones long for is the ability to print documents from the smartphone using a regular printer. The main problem with this is the requirement for the computing device i.e. the smartphone to have drivers for the various printers that it will encounter. Typically this has been achieved through printer manufacturers providing free single-purpose apps through app-store platforms like iTunes App Store that only do a task like printing photographs on the manufacturer’s printer.
Now Apple have taken up the initiative by establishing a one-size-fits-all printing mechanism as part of the iOS 4.2 operating system. This mechanism is intended to work with the HP ePrint-enabled printers like the HP Photosmart Wireless-E printer that I previously reviewed but is intended to be rolled out to more printers offered by other manufacturers.
There are a few questions that I have about this wireless-printing platform. One is whether the platform is really reinventing the wheel that standards like UPnP Printing have established or simply is a way of allowing a manufacturer to market one of these standards under their own name?
Another more serious question is whether other handset operating systems and platforms like Android will implement the wireless-printing platform in a universal way at all. It may be easy to accept the status quo with Apple providing support in the next version of iOS but if this feature is to work properly, it has to work for other handset operating platforms and devices made by other manufacturers.
Other issues worth tackling include support for public-access printers, including secure job submission and collection as well as support for paid operation models.
This concept may open up a new field of access to hard copy for devices like smartphones and tablet computers as well as dedicated-function devices.