Printing from Mobile Devices

According to a recent Forbes blog on the growing use of smartphones and tablets, "Shipments of smartphones and tablet PCs are both on the rise, with the first up 40 percent and the second nearly 100 percent this year, market research firm TrendForce forecasts." What does that mean for printing? Does everyone with a smartphone or tablet want to give up the option to print something from the device?

In the early days of these handy, computer-in-your-hand devices, users basically did just that. They accepted the limitations of the device and emailed themselves links, bookmarked pages and did all sorts of strange things to remind themselves to print that important document, email or website page when they returned to a PC which could connect to a printer.

Eventually, printer makers got smart and created apps that supported their brand devices. An Epson app let users print to their Epson printer and the like. And even Google, of course, has gotten into the game with an ability to print using its cloud services.

So what's the problem, then? Well, for one, we are making it difficult for users to do something they've taken for granted for decades now: click a print button and watch something magically emerge from a printer. We're asking them to install all kinds of apps, which might or might not work well, and to keep updating them, signing in and in general presenting a number of hurdles to doing something that is actually pretty simple.

For printer and other print device makers (multi-function devices, copiers, enterprise printers), we're requiring them to create and maintain apps, make their devices work with these apps and keep up with the treadmill of new operating systems, new capabilities and the like. And in between, we possibly are foregoing security.

Clearly what's needed is some sort of simple interface that is standard. That's where the IEEE-ISTO (International Standards and Technology Organization) Printer Working Group (PWG) comes in. The PWG has labored quietly for years to create cross-industry, open and free technical standards that enable seamless printing.

More later this week as we look at the work of PWG and how it helps users and printer makers.