On Aug. 10, 2011, IBM executive Mark Dean caused a bit of a stir when he referred to the world being in a "post-PC era." Dean wasn't saying that the PC was dead or obsolete. But he was pointing out how people are using mobile devices more often when they perform basic activities traditionally done on computers. Smartphones and tablets are pushing desktop and laptop computers to a support role. One of those tasks is printing.
Traditionally, to send a print job to a printer you'd either have to connect the printer directly to your computer, or connect both the printer and your computer to a network. Google Cloud Print is a service that extends the printer's function to any device that can connect to the Internet. You can be on the other side of the world and send a print job to the machine sitting on your desk at home.
To use Google Cloud Print, you need the following:
- a free Google profile
- an app, program or Web site that incorporates the Google Cloud Print feature
- at least one cloud-ready printer or printer connected to a computer logged onto the Internet
When you use Google Cloud Print through an app or Web site, the print request goes through the Google servers. Google routes the request to the appropriate printer associated with your Google account. If you register more than one printer -- there's no limit to the number of printers you can connect to your account -- you'll have to designate the machine you want the print job to go to. Assuming the respective printer is on and has an active Internet connection, paper and ink, the print job should execute on the machine even if you're in another part of the world. You can share your printer with other people, allowing them to send you printed documents through Google Cloud Print.
Because most printers aren't t cloud-ready, most Google Cloud Print users will need to have a computer act as a liaison. Google Cloud Print is an extension built into the Google Chrome. browser Google turns the setting off by default -- you have to choose to enable it. Once enabled, the service activates a small piece of code called a connector. The connector's job is to interface between the printer and the outside world. The connector uses your computer's printer software to send commands to the printer. As of this writing, Google has connectors built for PCs and Macs and is working on one for Linux machines.
If you have a cloud-ready printer, you can connect the printer to the Internet directly without the need for a dedicated computer. You have to register the cloud printer with Google Cloud Print to take advantage of its capabilities. The big advantage of the cloud printer is that you don't have to keep a computer powered on, online and connected to your Google account in order to receive print jobs. You connect a cloud printer to the Google Cloud Print service by registering the printer's unique email address with Google.
Because Google allows app and Web site developers to incorporate Google Cloud Print into their products as they see fit, there's no standard approach to executing a print job. You might see one user interface on one site and a completely different approach on another. Also, Google Cloud Print depends upon developers incorporating the feature into their products. Not every app or site will have Google Cloud Print built into it, which limits its functionality. Naturally, Google builds the service into its own products but many people rely on services from multiple sources and may find Google Cloud Print doesn't have a wide enough adoption to meet all their needs.