Google just unveiled a strategy for universal printing over on its chromium blog. The technology ties in to the chrome browser but, it will go beyond that to (in Google's words) allow printing from any web app:
[caption id="attachment_430" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Infographic from Google Chromium blog: http://blog.chromium.org/2010/04/new-approach-to-printing.html"][/caption]
"...design a printing experience that would enable web apps to give users the full printing capabilities that native apps have today. Using the one component all major devices and operating systems have in common-- access to the cloud-- today we're introducing some preliminary designs for a project called Google Cloud Print, a service that enables any application (web, desktop, or mobile) on any device to print to any printer."
So why is this a game changer? In spite of the push towards the "paperless office" printing is a big deal. It's quite profitable and yet remains very difficult to support from mobile devices. Lack of printing support is one of the minor annoyances I have found with using the Ipod Touch and it is a major reason why I haven't even considered buying the newly minted Ipad. There are limited functionality work-around printing solutions, the best of which work for photos and with a few specific printers. There are also printing eliminators (or delayers) one of the best I find is instapaper but for real web app printing this has been an elusive goal.
So, if Google pulls this off then it gets another load of user metric data to build on (if search data shows an interest then maybe printing demonstrates a commitment). Imagine all the derivative apps for a cloud printing service - reprinting, delayed printing, mass publishing (books on demand), secure printing services and on and on and once more all of the other major tech companies get to play catch-up with Google - again!