Lots of Apple patents don’t necessarily lead to finished products. But I certainly hope that two showing that Apple is working on ways to get rid of printer drivers come to fruition.
Patent number 20110194140 is for a system that supports printing from a computing device. During operation, the system uses a discovery protocol to identify printers that can be accessed by the computing device. Next, the system receives a selection of a printer that can be accessed by the computing device. The system then generates printer data for the print job. This can be accomplished in a number of ways.
The system can use a driverless printing technique, which involves obtaining printer capability information from the selected printer and generating printer data for the selected printer based on the printer capability information. Alternatively, the system can use a printer-specific driver for the selected printer to generate the printer data. The system can also send the print job to a cloud, which includes one or more servers that provide a printing service, so that the cloud can generate the printer data. Finally, the system sends the generated printer data to the printer.
Patent number 20110194124 is also for a system that facilitates driverless printing. It involves a computer-readable storage medium that stores a data structure that facilitates driverless printing, wherein the data structure specifies the following capabilities which are supported by a printer: resolutions; color spaces; bit depths; input slots; face-up/face-down input orientation; output bins; face-up/face-down output orientation; duplex printing support; media types; copy support; supported finishings; and print quality.
This data structure enables a client to generate printer data for the printer without the need for the client to maintain printer-specific software or printer-specific configuration information for the printer. The inventors of both patents are Michael R. Sweet and Howard Miller.
Software drivers have been one of the big pains-in-the-butt of computing. Though things have improved significantly over the years, “the original idea of the printer driver is still a barrier that prevents us from accessing printers from new types of devices, such as smartphones,” notes “ConceivablyTech” (http://macte.ch/J1RLo).
So let’s hope we see a Lion update that make driverless printing on our Macs a reality.
— Dennis Sellers