Google first announced its cloud-aware solution for printing last year. Now Google Cloud Print is going big-time, expanding its beta to include smartphones, and enabling users of GMail or Google Docs to send pages from their phones out over the internet for output on a printer connected to Google’s cloud.
The setup requires you to install Chrome on the PC your printer’s attached to. For the moment, that means only Windows machines, though Google says it’s working on Linux and Mac support. From inside Chrome, you can select the printer you want affiliated with Google Cloud Print. Since Chrome is acting like a proxy, you don’t need any special network-aware printer; any old model, so long as it works under Windows, will suffice.
After you’re all configured, you can send documents from your smartphone, back to your home PC, and over to your printer to be outputted.
This looks like a good start, especially with how simple Google’s made the setup process, but there are some problems that keep Google Cloud Print from being an ideal solution just yet. Beyond the Windows requirement, which we understand to be temporary, there’s the problem that your home computer needs to be up and running for you to be able to print. If you don’t regularly leave your PC powered-on, or log out when you’re done using it, your documents won’t print. It’s not the end of the world – they’ll be saved in Google’s queue and will come out once everything’s back online – but it seems like an annoyance. The obvious answer is to have network-enabled printers that are Google Cloud Print aware, but we haven’t heard of any yet. For it’s part, Google is providing assistance to manufacturers who wish to make such a device.
There are other little things that Google needs to work on, like the inability to share your printer with more than one Google account, but it seems aware of many of these deficiencies, and promises to be working on remedying many. If you want to try out Google Cloud Print in its current implementation, download a copy of Chrome and fire up Google Docs on your HTML5-compatible smartphone.