As January came to and end, Google announced a beta version of Google Cloud Print. Now, reviews of the first public beta of the service are coming in. PCWorld found the service to be reliable despite a few hiccups. Reviewers declared that Google Cloud Print “has proven more reliable so far than the service we saw during our first forays into HP ePrint.”
As PCWorld warns, Google’s new service is a beta version and its capabilities “are still extremely limited.” Ultimately, Google Cloud Print will allow users to connect their printer to Google servers “in the cloud” to send Google Cloud Print-enabled applications from any computer or mobile device without worrying about physical connections, print drivers, or sending a file via email, as with HP’s ePrint.
For now, however, the free service requires users to install the latest version of Google Chrome on a printer-connected PC running Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 and enable the Google Cloud Print connector in Google Chrome. (Google promises Linux and Max support are coming soon.) Users can then print from mobile devices running Google’s Android or Apple’s iOS operating systems. To print, a user accesses gmail.com and chooses “print” from the dropdown menu in the top right corner. Users can also print eligible email attachments (such as .pdf or .doc) by clicking the “Print” link that appears next to them.
The reviewers did find some problems with the new service. One bug they discovered is that the service does not work well with Gmail addresses that include capital letters. The reviewers also warned that the service can only print files with .doc and .pdf extensions currently. Although Google Cloud Print is still a work-in-progress, reviewers saw a bright future for the service, saying, “As Google Cloud Print steadily evolves, however, it should work on pretty much any existing printer, even the old beater that you might have cranking away in a dark corner of your office. That sort of inclusiveness will be essential to cloud printing’s success.”
Mobile printing, it seems, is the wave of the future. To be sure, that is the hope of printer OEMs like HP and Lexmark, which were the first firms out-of-the-gate with printers that could print directly from the Web. HP expanded this concept further with its ePrint technology, included in new printers priced above $99. This technology enables users to email print jobs from mobile devices or remote PCs to their printer. Now, Google’s Cloud Print is sure to do much to increase awareness of mobile printing and hopefully drive volumes.
It is clear that printer vendors need a way to recapture some of the print volume being lost to technologies that make a good old-fashioned hard copy unnecessary. The question is will technologies such as ePrint and Google Cloud Print be enough to make up for the volume of copy once printed on a personal printer and now largely stored and viewed electronically? Of that we are unsure, but it is clear that anything vendors can do to drive print volume and make printing seem more relevant to today’s consumers and workforce is essential to the long-term health of the industry.