First look: xPrintServer for Android, Chrome OS

Printing from Android and Chrome OS isn't so simple, but Lantronix's tiny print server makes it much easier

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A second option is to expose the printer for anyone to use. In that case, the people require a URL to access the printer, so you typically need to set up a Web page with that link for them. Google's documentation explains the process.

For a business with multiple users or for a home environment, Cloud Print requires much, much more hands-on management than AirPrint. For a large business, that management can't be tied into Active Directory, so Cloud Print doesn't realistically scale up if managed via the Google Cloud Print admin console. Server tools for Active Directory integration and management of Cloud Print are available from Collobos, Ecamm Network, and EFI, but they require real network admin know-how to use.

Still, there's one advantage to the Cloud Print approach that AirPrint can't match: You can print to a printer anywhere on the Internet, as long as it is registered with your Google account and, of course, available outside your firewall. By contrast, Apple's AirPrint is a local protocol, for devices visible to the current wireless network.

Cloud Print is haphazardly available in Android
The other limitation of Cloud Print is that it's not broadly or consistently deployed in Android. Some devices such as the Google Nexus 5 have Cloud Print preinstalled. But most Android devices don't, requiring users to install the free Cloud Print app from the Google Play Store. By contrast, AirPrint has been built into iOS since November 2010.

Cloud Print is native to Chrome OS, and it is available to OS X and Windows via the Chrome browser. Ironically, the xPrintServer for Cloud Print can print to a USB-connected printer from OS X and Windows by using Apple's Bonjour networking protocol, which is native to OS X but must be separately installed in Windows. AirPrint is native to OS X (as of Mountain Lion) and is available for Windows through third-party apps like Ecamm's Printopia.

Using Cloud Print is more difficult in Android than in iOS. Only a few apps, such as Chrome, let you print from within the app, so most of the time you need to open the Cloud Print app and select a compatible file to be printed. But even Chrome is inconsistent: On a Nexus 5, Chrome had the Print menu option, but on a Samsung Galaxy S 4, I had to go to the Share menu to find Cloud Print.

In iOS, in-app printing is not universal, but many more apps support printing than in Android because it is an OS-level capability in iOS. iOS apps that support it are consistent from device to device. And if your iOS app can't print, you can work around it for common file types by opening the file in a file-manager app like GoodReader and printing it from there -- like using the Cloud Print app in Android.

If you use Cloud Print, don't expect the simple, consistent experience of AirPrint. The horribly difficult setup is likely to keep most businesses from even bothering. But thanks to Lantronix, you can now bring Cloud Print to most of your printers, should you decide to bite the Cloud Print bullet. I only wish Lantronix sold a xPrintServer model that supported AirPrint and Cloud Print, both to save the number of boxes on the network and to let you use the same USB printer via both protocols.

This article, "First look: xPrintServer for Android, Chrome OS," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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