iPad: What About Printing?

Printing is one subject that has gone largely undiscussed in the torrent of words unleashed by the iPad announcement. But it is an important issue that Apple should address before the iPad ships.

You don’t expect a phone to print, so no one is bothered by the iPhone’s inability to do so. But people do print from computers, even netbooks, all the time. People print Web pages, email messages, and documents of all sorts. The extreme portability and e-reader-like form factor of the the iPad may reduce the urge to produce a dead tree image, but it isn’t going to eliminate it. And the fact that Apple is making productivity apps such as Pages and Numbers available for the iPad increases the mystery of why printing capability was (apparently) left out of the list of features.

Bonjour logoFortunately, Apple has a dead simple way to fix this. Bonjour is an extremely easy way to locate and connect to a printer (or an iTunes library; Apple also uses Bonjour for that) on a local network. It’s universal plug-and-play that actually works. It seems like it would be no great trick to add Bonjour capabilities to the Pad to enable printing.

If Apple doesn’t do this, I think it will have a lot of frustrated users on its hands. The iPad is all about simplicity, and making people transfer files to a Mac or a PC via iDisk or as an email attachment so they can be printed is no way to keep things easy.

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8 Responses to “iPad: What About Printing?”

  1. Mike Bauer Says:

    Steve,

    There are several printing apps for the iPhone, I use the HP Photo Print app and print (via WiFi) to one of our HP printers. If, as stated, the iPad will use iPhone apps that may solve it. While printing photos is different form printing documents, it seems the underlying capability is there?

    • swildstrom Says:

      What’s really needed is a consistent and seamless way to print that works across apps. On a Mac or Windows, you’ll find a Print option of the File menu of any application where printing makes sense. Not that I am advocating going to a PC-like menuing system for the iPad. But you need a similar, consistent way to print.

    • krissi Degen Says:

      Mike and Steve,

      I’ve been watching and waiting for an app that works as a printer via wifi for my iPad. I’ve purchased/downloaded a few different ones, including eprint and docs to go and they have yet to connect to or even see/find my wifi printer (it’s a Brother printer).

      I saw HP’s recent release of a wifi printer that ‘prints via email’ and was wondering if it ‘actually’ works?

      Have you had any issues with printing, or loss of connectivity?

      I ask, as I would hate to spend more time and money on something that isn’t going to work (again).

      Thank you!

  2. Mike Bauer Says:

    Steve, I agree with you as to a standardized approach. I was saying that certainly the underlying capability exists.

  3. Jim Flanders Says:

    I’m a gadgeteer glad to see another of Steve’s cogent points. Just looking at the product intro, the iPad seems a lot more like a computer than a phone, because (a) you don’t put it in your pocket, (b) tablet computers have been produced before, and (c) its capabilities with Apple branding seem way beyond book reader single purpose devices. A survey of potential buyers would almost certainly turn up the same impressions. It really did not occur to me that printing capability was not introduced along with the computer-like device. Hey, I’m married to a librarian, and the longest-lasting infomedium is still paper. Good points both Steve and Mike.

  4. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    iPad is a printer. You can literally unplug a printer from your Mac/PC and attach iPad to the same port. You print to iPad from your Mac/PC through iTunes. You put all your photos on there and take iPad with you, not paper.

    If you want to share documents, get an app like Air Sharing, which appears as a file server to the network you’re on at [your iPad’s name].local. You can upload and download files, email files, read all kinds of files.

    At my office there is one guy who prints everything and the rest of us just put it right into recycling. If you want me to use it, send it to me via email or give me a link.

  5. swildstrom Says:

    There are still times when hard-copy output is desired for a variety of reasons. The iPod should enable ordinary printing, at least to networked printers.

    There are a number of third-party solutions for getting documents into a iPad my means other than iTunes. I particularly like the SugarSync/Documents to Go combo. But again, the OS should support this.

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