Posted on Mashable by Stan Schroeder on 16 April 2010

Whenever you want to print out a document, you rely on your local operating system, which must have drivers installed for each printer you intend to use. Most of the time, it’s not an issue: at home, you probably have one printer, and all your PCs have the required drivers.

Things get a bit more complicated when you want to print something from a mobile device, like an iPad. Or a laptop based on Google’s Chrome OS, which relies entirely on web apps and services. This is why Google is working on Google Cloud Print, a service that enables “any application (web, desktop, or mobile) on any device to print to any printer.”

Google Cloud Print is still in early days of development, but Google made the code and documentation public as part of the Chromium and Chromium OS projects. The documentation reveals how Google plans to solve some of the issues it’ll inevitably face, such as making Cloud Print work with legacy printers.

“The ideal experience is for your printer to have native support for connecting to cloud print services. Under this model, the printer has no need for a PC connection of any kind or for a print driver. The printer is simply registered with one or more cloud print services and awaits print jobs. Cloud-aware printers don’t exist yet, but one of our main goals in publishing this information at an early stage is to begin engaging industry leaders and the community in developing cloud-aware printers and the necessary open protocols for these printers to communicate with cloud print services.”

“We want users to be able to print to legacy printers via Google Cloud Print. This is accomplished through the use of a proxy, a small piece of software that sits on a PC where the printer is installed. The proxy takes care of registering the printer with Google Cloud Print and awaiting print jobs from the service. When a job arrives, it submits the print job to the printer using the PC operating system’s native print stack and sends job status back to the printer.”

There are obviously some obstacles ahead, but it’s an amazing idea. If print jobs are handled in the cloud, you don’t need drivers, and most of the problems users have with printing from all these new types of devices such as smartphones and tablets will be solved.