A common reality with the desktop printer is that you need to implement drivers on a desktop computer in order to have the printer work properly with that computer. This has confused many people who simply wanted to “walk up and print” at another location or install a newer printer. The situation is very difficult for mobile and embedded devices where these devices require limited memory space or hard-to-adapt software.
There have been various attempts at providing driver-free printing for mobile and embedded computers. One of these was UPnP Printing which allowed one to print a JPEG image or XHTML-formatted document on a suitable network printer but this was only followed through by HP with their consumer multifunction desktop printers and Nokia with their Symbian-based feature phones. HP also took this further with their ePrint “print-by-email” setup which just about every consumer and small-business HP desktop printer is equipped with.
Apple made a bit of headway with this issue by implementing AirPrint for their iOS devices and Macintosh computers running MacOS X Lion. Here, this was totally “driver-free” and more printer manufacturers came on board offering it for newer printer ranges or as “field-update” firmware for some of their existing models.
There needed to be an effort that is centred around one or more existing standards and augmented by a logo-driven marketing platform in order to provide driver-free printing to other regular, mobile and embedded computing platforms. No doubt, as Apple and their fanbois have their faith behind the AirPrint ecosystem, the Mopria ecosystem will be offered as a complementary system for other “open-frame” computing platforms.
The Mopria platform is recognising the idea that the smartphone or tablet that runs a mobile operating system is serving users as either a sole or anciliary computing device. But I would also like to see Microsoft and the open-source community adopt Mopria as a driver-free system-wide printing solution for Windows and Linux respectively in order to provide the true “walk-up and print” ability to regular computers that run these operating systems.
The embedded device community could place value on Mopria as a way to add network printing to all sorts of dedicated devices. For example, the smart TV or set-top box could exploit Mopria for interactive TV’s printing needs such as coupon printing. Similarly, devices like energy meters or “wellness” devices could use the technology to print trend-based charts for energy used or personal-wellness stats.
This may be early days yet but by using a device standard with a distinct customer-recognisable logo, Mopria could be in a position to provide driver-free printing for most applications. They also need the help of other industry standards groups like DLNA or Blu-Ray Disc to provide leverage for Mopria in the embedded-device space.