Google wants to intercept all the world´s print jobs

Online giant Google wants to become the “World’s Print Spooler” of sorts, if one believes Google’s plans for printing from its “Chrome OS” and “other web-connected platforms”, as published recently in a firm’s blog at which hosts its Chromium open sauce browser.

Highlighting how things can go overboard when you misdiagnose a problem, the on-line behemoth says that the printing landscape is too complex, because a lot of drivers are needed for different printers, and that they have come up with a solution: called Google Cloud Print, a described as “a service that enables any application (web, desktop, or mobile) on any device to print to any printer.” It calls this scheme “a new approach to printing.”

The firm says that “today’s printers still require installing drivers which makes printing impossible from most of these new devices. Developing and maintaining print subsystems for every combination of hardware and operating system– from desktops to netbooks to mobile devices — simply isn’t feasible.”. There is a problem with that statement: it is false. Everybody in the IT field knows that real quality printers speak industry-standard languages, of which PCL and PostScript are the most popular.

There are Free Software implementations of both PostScript and PCL, namely GhostScript and GhostPCL  , both available under the Free Software Foundation’s GPL license. If Google wants to make printing easy from its Chrome OS, they should integrate the open source PCL and/or PostScript engines into Chrome OS. Of course, there’s the issue of the particular licensing of Chrome OS itself.  But let’s leave lawyers out of the equation for now.

By integrating those two industry standards into Chrome OS, most of the world’s “real” printers would work out of the box. The real problem for non-windows operating systems are the so-called “winprinters”, or GDI printers, or “dumb printers” as this scribbler likes to call them. Most low-cost inkjets fall into this category, with one notable exception: HP.

HP long ago decided to support GNU/Linux and has developed Linux drivers, with the name HP Linux Imaging and Printing System (HPLIP) which could be also integrated into Chrome OS for seamless printing, even to low-cost HP inkjets. That would, of course, leave out the low-end Canon, Lexmark, and any other minor player in the Ink-jet market, but perhaps Google could use the opportunity to promote the virtues of those with open source drivers and “real” printers with a brain  -an internal CPU and hardware-based page layout engine-. In other words: If a given printer does not support established standards, or the manufacturer does not provide open source drivers, that’s the printer manufacturer’s problem, they’ll lose Chrome OS users.

Google’s wasteful and dangerous vision: become the world’s print spooler
This scribbler could go on and on the lack of sense of Google’s proposal -making print jobs travel from computers to Google’s servers and back to a new breed of “Cloud-aware” printers, but the best way to put some light into this is to quote what the visitors to Google’s blog are thinking of this proposal.

One user says “This means that I can cloud print something in my house, walk to my local it store, pick it up and unfortunately not save any time”. Another named Sebastian wrote about his different priorities “That’s nice, but when will Chrome have a “print preview” option?”. Others think that the approach is unnecessary and wasteful, like Dave Johansen, who wrote: “Cool idea, but even putting privacy concerns aside, something about shipping a print job off to the cloud just to be sent back to my printer in my house seems unnecessary and wasteful.”

S. Sokolow agrees “This seems sort of like a Microsoft/Apple-style “doing it our way rather than the right way” move” with another one commenting “I do think it’s a little silly to send your print job from one side of the continent to the other and back again just because nobody in the Windows, Windows Printer, and mobile computing sectors are willing to invest in sticking a good UI, a roaming service or two, and a bit of polish on top of the CUPS + Zeroconf combination that Linux and Apple are continuing to develop.”, and Nizam agrees “very very wasteful. if you are developing a new communications protocol for printers to adapt, why won’t you use the same protocol over LAN rather than cloud? What is the exact benefit of the cloud here? I see none.”

Some people laugh at Google’s vision,  lots question it
Some users could only laugh at it. Vic Berggren said: “Is that so it can come back with adwords embedded in the print job?” A poster with the nickname CubanLinks added: “This is so ridiculous, it’s almost worthy of an April 1st post or a TheOnion article.”

Others point to the absurdity of relying on network (Internet) connectivity to be able to print: “Among other reasons I don’t like cloud services, as a user, I don’t like having my potentially unstable DSL as a single point of failure” says one, while another with nickname Deux wrote: “wait, so if I don’t have an internet connection, I can’t use my printer? Awesome! Always dreamed of that!”

Others, quite rightfully, think Google should stop trying to re-invent the wheel: Michael Brophy said “This Google Cloud Print is a folly — they can’t support printer drivers on Chrome OS because they don’t have the maturity of partnerships and OEM ecosystem that Microsoft has cultivated over the past 20 years. Not to mention Google just wants to turn everyone’s printers into another advertising outlet — like fax spam from the 80s and 90s.”

Carmen Kroc agrees, the answer is PostScript: “POSTSCRIPT. This problem was solved in the 70’s. How many more times is the world going to be hampered by obtuse printer manufacturers who insist on hitting users with the brand hammer so they can sell overpriced cartridges and install spyware on their machines. Google are going to have a much bigger fight with printer manufacturers by cutting off their access to abuse the user” (sic).

Finally, others like Les pointed about the security implications “You better get security right. The backlash you will get the first time somebody prints their taxes to the wrong printer or someone intentionally spams the wrong printer will be insane.” Mikko adds “Security? Confidentiality? Information integrity? Do you really trust Google so much?” Anthony Papillon writes “Honestly, if you look at this, there is no need for this project aside from Google having even more access to data. Installing a printer driver is a no brainer. Sorry, I’m a huge fan of Google but this is an obvious move to grab more data.”

Closing thought
Choosing a printer that supports PCL or PostScript is not a problem. Affording the overpriced INKJET INK or toner is the problem. Can Google make printer ink rain from the Cloud?.