Printers

Next up for Apple: Driver-less printing?

Apple's patent filings for driver-less printing offer some insight into technology that they may be implementing soon for Mac OS X and iOS devices.

There's always plenty of activity in the Apple patent field, but apart from the legal fights that often pop up, some interesting innovations also come to light. Chris Smith at the AppleInsider reports on a couple of new filings that illustrate Apple's interest in getting beyond the pesky printer driver. (First patent here.)

In the filing, first noticed by ConceivablyTech, Apple describes a new printing process for such mobile computing devices that would allow them to wirelessly detect a printer and determine whether a printer driver is installed.

The user would then be able to continue the printing job even without a driver by employing a series of APIs based on a discovery protocol such as Bonjour, an Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) and the PostScript Printer Description (PPD) file, which is used to detect the printer.

A second patent explores yet another method of bypassing the printer driver by storing a particular data structure specifying a certain set of printing characteristics when detecting a printer. As described in its Summary:

This system includes a discovery component configured to identify accessible printers and to facilitate selection of an accessible printer, wherein the discovery component is also configured to obtain capability information from accessible printers. The system also includes a transport component configured to transport data to the selected printer, wherein the transport component is also configured to obtain capability information from the selected printer. Finally, the system includes a page-description-language component configured to generate printer data for the selected printer based on obtained capability information for the selected printer.

What do you think of these ideas? Have you heard of anyone else doing -- or planning something similar?

Related Apple news (ZDNet):

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Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...

11 comments
David2k11
David2k11

Never heard or tried driverless printing before. But f its available in Apple then its gonna help me a lot. Installing print drivers takes a long time on some printer models. This is a good innovation. Let me bookmark and share this article to my friend. Also check out this printing company, they have one of the best print services here in Austin.

PassingWind
PassingWind

... using the APIs - APIs are all about giving different processes access to the same basic functionality! It's like using the print button rather than the menu, or using a wizard rather than a sheet of instructions. It's all been done before. But if they can get it to change the paper to Letter if I'm in Europe, where everything goes funny on their A4 paper - that would be a real invention.

MikeMJ
MikeMJ

stion. Does a printer driver HAVE to be executable code? Or can it be a set of control tables that define the encoding of information to be preformed by a single piece of software (such as, for example a Graphics Device Interface or GDI?) that incorporates the intelligence, but relies on the different control tables to change the output to match the requirements for each specific printing device? Apple is quoted as claiming that "the system includes a page-description-language component configured to generate printer data for the selected printer based on obtained capability information for the selected printer." That sounds to me as though the PPD file is used as a set of control tables to configure the rendering software -- and as far as I am concerned, that means the PPD file (which is being transferred to the mobile device) IS a printer driver. At least, when I developed the printer drivers that enabled our typesetting application to drive dozens of different typesetting devices, simply by loading different control tables, back in 1974, that was my understanding of what I was doing. I really SHOULD have patented the idea, shouldn't I? Not.

YetAnotherBob
YetAnotherBob

So now, Apple has a patent on Adobe Post Script? what will they invent next, Microsoft Windows? How about DOS. Or maybe the Wheel. If it has somewhere to plug in a computer chip, the patent office would approve it, and in East Texas, they would let you try it, and win, only costs a few Million Dollars. Does anyone need more evidence that the US Patent System is broken?

TAPhilo
TAPhilo

Looks like Apple is trying avoid the need to install a printer "translator" for those on the go people. Being mobile you could end up with a few hundred printer drivers if you road a lot and then print even once in a while. So what they want to do is if you WANT to print to a printer it queries the printer to get the make / model - sees if there is a driver installed for it already then uses it; if not, then it goes through the API to dump the print output ANYWAY into a common universal PRN type file that the printer will then use and create an output anyway. Course in a closed Apple world of hardware that works great, it is getting all the other printer companies to build into the printers that universal discovery of capabilities in a standard communication method PLUS a standard GML (General Mark-up Language - 1960s era type miltiary /IBM technology which HTML grew out of) to send the output so that the default fonts / layouts within a printer would be used to print the doc close to the original.

da philster
da philster

Oh great, just what I need! Now some unknown buffoon can send a printjob to my printer and have it run until my paper tray or my print cartridges are emptied. Wonderful way to compromise a printer and possibly any device attached to it. OK, so I'm having a bad day!

TNT
TNT

Being able to print from any device to any printer without installing any software would be great for the home/small business, but doesn't address the needs of schools, governments or big business. For instance, being able to identify who is printing and how to bill the expense is imperative for the aforementiond institutions and I see no mention in Apple's patent for their devices having an equally discoverable information file so that the printers can identify the person doing the printing. And if there were, that may pose a security risk. It sounds like a neat technology but its one that only consumers will be interested in.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

I mean, really...this has been going on for darn near a decade. Windows Moble 2003 could do it, HP had wireless printers for PDAs running WinMo2003. Does this mean HP violated Apple's IP that they have just now filed back in 2003? Oh, here's a link to an old discussion on Tom's Hardware circa 2004 http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/13415-36-wireless-printing

nwallette
nwallette

This is pretty much how printing on Linux works, isn't it? Combine a capabilities file with a generic markup language and you get an image on paper. The only reason it has to be any more complicated than that is so HP can make you download 500MB of CD label creation software and popup "Don't forget to register! (Also, you're almost out of black toner.)" notices in your taskbar.

bboyd
bboyd

not sure if you did but, MS has been the bane of driver-less standards existence. Why a network card would have ever been built to force the need is beyond my comprehension.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

quote from the post: "In the filing, first noticed by ConceivablyTech, Apple describes a new printing process for such mobile computing devices that would allow them to wirelessly detect a printer and determine whether a printer driver is installed." Sure looks like it is looking for a driver!! Maybe not on the iOS device per se, but somewhere. As for the bane to driver-less standards, I kind of agree there, however, much of the blame for that can be placed on the OEMs.

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