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Patent Applications Hint Apple Wants To Eliminate Printer Drivers

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the from-anywhere-is-a-nice-ideal dept.

Patents 323

An anonymous reader writes "Apple has filed two patent applications that describe an approach as well as file formats and APIs to eliminate the printer driver as a requirement for users to access a printer and print documents. If the company has its way, there will be three ways to access a printer in the future: The first will be via a conventional software driver. The second will be via a cloud service and the third will be via a driverless access method that supports 'universal' printing from any type device."

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postscript (5, Insightful)

PineGreen (446635) | about 3 years ago | (#37081314)

Wasn't postscript supposed to solve these problems 20 years ago?

Re:postscript (0)

ModernGeek (601932) | about 3 years ago | (#37081330)

Prior art!

Re:postscript (5, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | about 3 years ago | (#37081338)

And it did a great job. Aren't the patents on PostScript expired by now? And the microprocessor and memory needed to run it is now dirt cheap.

Years ago getting printers to work on Linux was a major pain, and often the output didn't look that great. But if you had a postscript printer, it was a 3 second setup. Quite a bit like configuring a real SoundBlaster for Linux compared to some no-name 3rd party piece of junk.

Re:postscript (4, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about 3 years ago | (#37081558)

Well patents expiring helped a lot.

But in reality, virtually every postscript printer came with a PPD, and that PPD was all you ever needed to get a postscript printer running on linux. A PPD file is non OS specific.

But given Apple's overly litigagatory stance on any thing they (claim to) develop, I just don't see any of their suggestions getting accepted.
I can't see anyone opening themselves up for that kind of lawsuit until or unless Apple puts it all under the GPL or some other free license.

Postscript is free and everybody uses it. It pretty much renders page preparation a non issue, because virtually all postscript printers will use the default PPD in a pinch, albeit with somewhat more limited capabilities. Printers do have different capabilities and you must make allowance for that, but postscript handled that very nicely.

Re:postscript (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | about 3 years ago | (#37081610)

Given that they already open sourced CUPS, and don't have any profit in printers, it's more likely than not they would simply open source it like OpenCL, CUPS, Webkit, etc.

Re:postscript (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 3 years ago | (#37081618)

Given that they already open sourced CUPS, and don't have any profit in printers, it's more likely than not they would simply open source it like OpenCL, CUPS, Webkit, etc.

This is Slashdot - if it's not released under the GPL, it doesn't count as open source and should be ridiculed.

Re:postscript (1)

icebike (68054) | about 3 years ago | (#37081658)

Cups was already opensource when they bought it. The didn't have much choice. Webkit same deal. It was GPL when they grabbed it, and after a fairly long fight they decided to give their changes back to the KDE community from which it sprang.

Re:postscript (0, Troll)

Goaway (82658) | about 3 years ago | (#37081800)

They bought CUPS fair and square, so they own the copyright, and they could close it if they wanted. They didn't want to.

And there certainly was never any "long fight" about giving any changes back for WebKit. Source was released, as required, as soon as it shipped. What KDE complained about was that they wanted more than the license required, which is feature-specific diffs. This is not trivial to provide, after re-writing so much of the original source. Apple was in no way required to provide this, but they did anyway.

Re:postscript (2)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 3 years ago | (#37081690)

Given that they already open sourced CUPS,

Actually, CUPS was developed before, and was open source before, Apple hired its creator (who is, BTW, the first inventor in the list in the patent application).

Partial reality distortion? (2)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 3 years ago | (#37081708)

Given that they already open sourced CUPS, and don't have any profit in printers, it's more likely than not they would simply open source it like OpenCL, CUPS, Webkit, etc.

Apple developed OpenCL [wikipedia.org] and open-sourced it under the permissive GPL. Kudos for that.

However, CUPS [wikipedia.org] existed and was open-source for years before Apple adopted it in 2002 (they did not create it).

Webkit is a fork of the KHTML [wikipedia.org] library which is and was under the LGPL, and thus Apple had no choice over open-sourcing it and releasing it under a permissive license.

Re:Partial reality distortion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081758)

They can also claim credit for LLVM and Clang.

Overall I think Apple has one of the best track records of contributing to open source software. It doesn't stop them from also being megalomaniac control freaks though.

Re:Partial reality distortion? (1)

tyrione (134248) | about 3 years ago | (#37081778)

Given that they already open sourced CUPS, and don't have any profit in printers, it's more likely than not they would simply open source it like OpenCL, CUPS, Webkit, etc.

Apple developed OpenCL [wikipedia.org] and open-sourced it under the permissive GPL. Kudos for that.

However, CUPS [wikipedia.org] existed and was open-source for years before Apple adopted it in 2002 (they did not create it).

Webkit is a fork of the KHTML [wikipedia.org] library which is and was under the LGPL, and thus Apple had no choice over open-sourcing it and releasing it under a permissive license.

WebKit started as a fork and was completely rewritten. Nothing of KHTML/KJS is in WebKit. Apple took over sponsorship of CUPS and it's creator works for Apple. All but the interfaces within OS X have been released to the public.

Re:postscript (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 3 years ago | (#37081712)

Printers do have different capabilities and you must make allowance for that, but postscript handled that very nicely.

How does it handle "the ability to interpret PostScript is not one of this printer's capabilities"? :-)

Re:postscript (1)

Count Fenring (669457) | about 3 years ago | (#37081766)

I don't know offhand - go on back to 1995 and ask someone? ;-)

Re:postscript (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 3 years ago | (#37081784)

I don't know offhand - go on back to 1995 and ask someone? ;-)

Why not ask them now? There were non-PostScript printers then, and there are non-PostScript printers now (i.e., "everybody uses it", where "everybody" includes "printer vendors", is a false statement).

Re:postscript (1)

EyelessFade (618151) | about 3 years ago | (#37081390)

and later pdf printers.

Re:postscript (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#37081606)

and later Postscript Extreme, which converts all print jobs to pdf first.

Apple sells limitations. Others don't. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081448)

Unlike many other vendors, Apple seems, in my mind, to go out of their way to sell devices that are extremely limited. While this has the benefit of such devices usually doing a small number of things quite well, it's very different from how other products are created and marketed. Other companies usually try to sell products that directly offer unique capabilities, or that are extensible so the user can customize them to the user's needs.

Printer drivers are necessary in many cases because non-Apple printer vendors support a very wide and differing feature set. You need the driver to be able to take full advantage of the functionality that a particular devices offers.

On the other hand, if you want to offer a printer that's very locked-down and limited to a small set of functionality, then Apple's approach may very well work.

Apple is a very different company than most, so what makes sense within the Apple world doesn't make sense throughout the whole market. Not every company can sell hype-based products to trust fund babies and social rejects who term themselves "hipsters". While Apple can sell products with a very limited feature set, over which the user has almost no control, most other companies can't get away with this.

Re:Apple sells limitations. Others don't. (0)

Pharmboy (216950) | about 3 years ago | (#37081460)

Apple seems, in my mind, to go out of their way to sell devices that are extremely limited.

Then you can make them do only the things in the bulleted brochure. Might explain why I haven't owned anything Apple brand since the 90s. On the other hand, wish I would have bought their stock back then, because of the other fools that bought their products.

Re:Apple sells limitations. Others don't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081498)

ah yes, the late 90s, when the fools bought the products, and the stock, knowing people like you couldn't see the future value

Re:Apple sells limitations. Others don't. (1)

FudRucker (866063) | about 3 years ago | (#37081620)

yup, Apple is starting to do those dirty tricks only that evil company from Redmond Washington does:
1.Embrace
2.Extend
3.Extinguish

Re:Apple sells limitations. Others don't. (2)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 3 years ago | (#37081496)

Printer drivers are necessary in many cases because non-Apple printer vendors support a very wide and differing feature set.

You are aware that the sets "non-Apple printer vendors", at least in the sense of "printer vendors other than Apple", and "printer vendors" are the same? I.e., there are no Apple printers.

Re:Apple sells limitations. Others don't. (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#37081668)

there are no Apple printers.

Tomorrow when I get home, please remind me to check whether my ImageWriter II (impact printer used with my Apple IIGS) and my Color StyleWriter 2500 (a rebadged Canon BubbleJet) are still in my basement, or whether they've evaporated. (References here [wikipedia.org] )

Serious mode: Apple printers still exist; they're just discontinued.

Re:Apple sells limitations. Others don't. (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 3 years ago | (#37081760)

Serious mode: Apple printers still exist; they're just discontinued.

Yes, I know about the LaserWriter, etc., so "there are no Apple printers any more", then. The point is that you can't rationally argue that Apple can solve this problem because the printers they design have limited capabilities, and thus need no drivers, as they haven't designed printers in ages (and the first one they designed was a PostScript printer, so you could send it arbitrary programs - hardly "very locked-down and limited to a small set of functionality".

Sincerely, Frustrated Moderator (1)

Torodung (31985) | about 3 years ago | (#37081520)

I have mod points, but I won't spend them, because I can't mod you both +1 insightful and -1 flamebait.

And if I could do so, the net mod would be +0:Ambivalent.

You have some great points, truly, but it's completely neutered by the Apple hater verbiage at the end. Leave the "social rejects" out of it, and it's a cogent and insightful post.

Re:Sincerely, Frustrated Moderator (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081584)

I don't see the GP's description as "Apple hater verbiage". That sounds like a pretty accurate description of many Apple users, in my opinion.

Many IBM customers are often described as "suits", because they are indeed business execs wearing suits. It's not meant to be derogatory. It's merely a way to describe such people.

Re:Sincerely, Frustrated Moderator (1)

Nick Ives (317) | about 3 years ago | (#37081650)

Apple also sells a lot of stuff to pensioners (or "seniors" as I supposed they're referred to in America).

My dad's laptop recently died and I ended up convincing him to get an iPad, which he loves. All he wants is web, email, maps, BBC iPlayer and the odd film. He hated it when his laptop was slow or had any sort of technical issue and never installed any applications on it, so the iPad is a perfect replacement.

Apparently you can also buy blood pressure monitoring peripheral for it, which made my mum giggle as it's a bother to get him to see the nurse and get his pressure checked.

I'm personally not interested in iOS devices: I find the arbitrary limitations (third party media players aren't allowed to use the GPU? That's should be the subject of an anti-trust probe on grounds of unlawful tying, they're clearly trying to create an iTunes lockin for HD video content) frustrating. Other people really like them though!

Re:Sincerely, Frustrated Moderator (1)

jo_ham (604554) | about 3 years ago | (#37081674)

Cool, so it's totally ok to refer to all Linux users as parental-basement dwelling neckbeards with hygiene and attitude problems.

Just checking, since it's ok to "accurately describe" Apple users as "trust fund babies and social rejects".

Re:Sincerely, Frustrated Moderator (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081816)

That says a lot more about you than it does about Apple users, you know.

Re:postscript (1)

bosef1 (208943) | about 3 years ago | (#37081492)

I wish I had some mod points, 'cause I said the same thing. Wasn't Apple's LaserWriter like the first mass-market printer with Postscript capability?

Re:postscript (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about 3 years ago | (#37081554)

It was indeed the first commercially available printer to implement PostScript, and hit the market in 1985.

Adobe began working on PS itself in 1982, and released it to market in late 1984, so if there was a patent on it, it's expired by now. Ahh, but Apple is talking about doing it bidirectionally over USB, so clearly it's a new technology.... we have stumbled on the reason they got rid of legacy ports!

Re:postscript (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081508)

Sort of. It was the old version of "universal" and this is the new. It solved the format problem but not really the access problem and it wasn't open or really bundle-able into the modern concept of a service in an open cross platform manner. The more worrisome things is if Apple is going for "universal" driverless printing then why the patent. I think the idea is great and could make all sort of things (mobile devices to computers to home appliances that might want to print out their manual or maintenance schedule) "just work" with any printer, any resolution, any technology, any color scheme, etc. However if Apple is just trying to control the connector and make money of licensing fees then it's worthless and will go nowhere.

Re:postscript (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 3 years ago | (#37081524)

Postscript works fine if all you want to do is print, but the device specific drivers allow you to check on the ink levels, choose the paper tray, and whatever other special feature the printer-maker thinks will be useful.

Re:postscript (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081738)

That's just bad information. You can choose printing options -- tray, color, duplexing, etc. via PostScript. And all you need to present those options to the user is a platform-agnostic, plain-text PPD file. You can send arbitrary data via a PostScript file so all the host printer interface needs to do is present the options defined in the PPD file and copy the related PS command strings into the generated PS file when the user clicks print -- the host doesn't even need to know what the options do.

You are right that you typically can't read supply levels via PostScript. It's not PS can't command the printer to tell you about them, but the printer->host comm channel is very limited and typically only handles exceptions, so you'd need to extend host-side support to get that kind of data back to the user. So the system can handle "out of paper" when you try to print but doesn't have a great method to handle "replace toner soon".

However, I can't imagine why you *want* you printing protocol to try to send you supply levels. If you're setting up a monitoring system for a shared printer you'd probably prefer SNMP or some HTTP-based interface (like REST) or email so you can tie in your standard monitoring tools (and in fact most network printers support all three options). And if you're just talking about manually checking the levels you could provide an entirely separate interface, either via HTTP for network printers or via a dead-simple app that does nothing except send a USB command and parse the response, rather than conflating "printing" with "printer maintainence".

Re:postscript (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081604)

Yes it was. But there's still a shitload of printers that have some weird ass-custom drivers...

mmmm (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | about 3 years ago | (#37081322)

So long as they sit on the patent and allow for a free-for-all licensing, this could prove to be wonderful. I never understood the need for 50 million printer drivers when the printer is now a computer-on-a-chip.

Re:mmmm (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 3 years ago | (#37081352)

what i never understood was why was there never wide spread support for the USB printer class. I mean, HID did wonders for joypads and all sorts of other input devices. Why did printer vendors fore go sanity with their software support?

Re:mmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081370)

Because they are idiots and think their stuff is better than the other guys stuff and want to lock people in?
The printer hardware industry has the maturity of a 5 year old to be perfectly honest.

Don't get me started on the audio industry, holy hell.

Re:mmmm (2)

bhtooefr (649901) | about 3 years ago | (#37081752)

USB printer class doesn't describe the language that the printer uses, only the way that print data is transported between the host and printer. It's designed to encapsulate any form of print data, be it PostScript, PCL, or something proprietary.

Re:mmmm (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 3 years ago | (#37081388)

This might be one of those patents that a company like Apple files for defense purposes especially with their CUPS and Bonjour work

Re:mmmm (4, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about 3 years ago | (#37081598)

This might be one of those patents that a company like Apple files for defense purposes especially with their CUPS and Bonjour work

THEIR CUPS?

Michael Sweet, who owns Easy Software Products, started developing CUPS in 1997. The first public betas appeared in 1999. The original design of CUPS used the LPD protocol, but due to limitations in LPD and vendor incompatibilities, the Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) was chosen instead. CUPS was quickly adopted as the default printing system for several Linux distributions, including Red Hat Linux.[citation needed] In March 2002, Apple Inc. adopted CUPS as the printing system for Mac OS X 10.2. In February 2007, Apple Inc. hired chief developer Michael Sweet and purchased the CUPS source code.

Cups was Open Source for 6 years [wikipedia.org] before Apple supposedly bought it.

Re:mmmm (2)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 3 years ago | (#37081652)

Excuse me, but Apple didn't buy the Cups source code, which would be quite pointless because it is GPL licensed. Apple bought the copyright to the Cups source code. And not "supposedly" but really.

Re:mmmm (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#37081710)

Apple didn't buy the Cups source code [...] Apple bought the copyright to the Cups source code

"Purchased a work of authorship" can mean one of two things: buying a copy or buying an assignment of the copyright. In context, the latter interpretation appeared obvious to me, especially right after "hired chief developer".

Re:mmmm (2)

icebike (68054) | about 3 years ago | (#37081754)

Like I say, it was open source GPL in many different Linux distros for years before Apple got involved.
Since it was GPL, just what did Apple buy? Oh, they bought the developer. Figuratively and Literally,
and pretty much induced him to walk away from his own GPL declaration "Just for them"..

                              Copyright 1997-2006 by Easy Software Products
                                                44141 AIRPORT VIEW DR STE 204
                                                HOLLYWOOD, MARYLAND 20636 USA
                                                      Voice: +1.301.373.9600
                                                    Email: cups-info@cups.org
                                                    WWW: http://www.cups.org/ [cups.org]

Introduction

      The Common UNIX Printing System^TM, ("CUPS^TM"), is provided under the
      GNU General Public License ("GPL") and GNU Library General Public
      License ("LGPL"), Version 2, with exceptions for Apple operating
      systems and the OpenSSL toolkit. A copy of the exceptions and licenses
      follow this introduction.

      The GNU LGPL applies to the CUPS and CUPS Imaging libraries located in
      the "cups" and "filter" subdirectories of the CUPS source distribution
      and in the "cups" include directory and library files in the binary
      distributions. The GNU GPL applies to the remainder of the CUPS
      distribution, including the "pdftops" filter which is based upon Xpdf.

      For those not familiar with the GNU GPL, the license basically allows
      you to:
          * Use the CUPS software at no charge.
          * Distribute verbatim copies of the software in source or binary
              form.
          * Sell verbatim copies of the software for a media fee, or sell
              support for the software.

      What this license does not allow you to do is make changes or add
      features to CUPS and then sell a binary distribution without source
      code. You must provide source for any changes or additions to the
      software, and all code must be provided under the GPL or LGPL as
      appropriate. The only exceptions to this are the portions of the CUPS
      software covered by the Apple operating system license exceptions
      outlined later in this license agreement.

      The GNU LGPL relaxes the "link-to" restriction, allowing you to develop
      applications that use the CUPS and CUPS Imaging libraries under other
      licenses and/or conditions as appropriate for your application, driver,
      or filter.

License Exceptions

      In addition, as the copyright holder of CUPS, Easy Software Products
      grants the following special exceptions:
        1. Apple Operating System Development License Exception;
                  a. Software that is developed by any person or entity for an
                        Apple Operating System ("Apple OS-Developed Software"),
                        including but not limited to Apple and third party printer
                        drivers, filters, and backends for an Apple Operating System,
                        that is linked to the CUPS imaging library or based on any
                        sample filters or backends provided with CUPS shall not be
                        considered to be a derivative work or collective work based on
                        the CUPS program and is exempt from the mandatory source code
                        release clauses of the GNU GPL. You may therefore distribute
                        linked combinations of the CUPS imaging library with Apple
                        OS-Developed Software without releasing the source code of the
                        Apple OS-Developed Software. You may also use sample filters
                        and backends provided with CUPS to develop Apple OS-Developed
                        Software without releasing the source code of the Apple
                        OS-Developed Software.

Re:mmmm (5, Informative)

Goaway (82658) | about 3 years ago | (#37081832)

If you buy the copyright to a GPL'd work, it is yours. You can change the license to anything you want. You can't change the already released versions, of course, but anything from that point onwards is entirely up to you.

Re:mmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081666)

Yes, and Apple purchased it, and kept it open source. Apple owns it, lock, stock, and barrel. Your point?

They could have closed the source just as easily.

Re:mmmm (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 3 years ago | (#37081676)

Michael Sweet, who owns Easy Software Products,

...and works for Apple Inc. on printing and has his name as the first inventor on the patent in question.

Re:mmmm (1)

jo_ham (604554) | about 3 years ago | (#37081698)

"supposedly"

What, is it not ok for the original owner of the code to sell it? I thought that was ok in the open source world, or is making money verboten?

Apple sunk money and time into it because they appreciated its value, and the value of the guy who started it in the first place, in much the same way as they did with KHTML.

Since they *did* buy the rights to the code, it is accurate to describe it as "theirs", although that doesn't mean "they did all the work".

Re:mmmm (1)

sjames (1099) | about 3 years ago | (#37081412)

How else are they going to cram 600MB of shovelware down your throat?

Of course, this isn't really driverless printing, it's just a matter of where the driver lives. Eventually, either the printer has a driver built in or the computer that talks to it does (or both).

This will likely end up being yet another one true universal data format that will be demanded by a minority of software. As long as a patent hangs over it, it will not reach 100%.

Patent != Product (2)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 3 years ago | (#37081328)

As we're all aware, one of the problems with the patent system is that patents don't always equal products. How many times has an Apple patent made the news with no product to show for it? How many people missed the iPhone because they weren't paying attention to the right patents?

That being said, this is WAY more plausible given Apple's work with CUPS and AirPrint.

So what? (1)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | about 3 years ago | (#37081332)

So... Option 1: Use a conventional driver.
Option 2: Send it to the cloud, which just basically uses someone else's driver.
Option 3: Standardize all printers to communicate in exactly the same way, making a "one-size-fits-all" driver.
I don't really see the "elimination" part here. Maybe a "simplification" at best.

Re:So what? (1)

Firehed (942385) | about 3 years ago | (#37081470)

PDF? Isn't that the general idea behind the "portable document format"? Send a PDF to the printer, call it a day. If they can print jpegs directly off memory cards that would seem like a relatively easy approach to a driverless system.

Re:So what? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#37081718)

If they can print jpegs directly off memory cards

That involves resizing the picture to fit the paper, something that end users find acceptable for photographs, not so much for text.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081528)

1. Plug printer into machine
2. (omitted)
3. Press print and get pretty piece of paper.

Clear, now?

Re:So what? (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 3 years ago | (#37081656)

Option 4: let printers say what formats they accept (PostScript, PDF, JPEG, rasters, etc.) and send them the most appropriate format for the particular print job. Read The Fine Patent Application (for which I'll post a link in a comment).

Ironic timing. (2)

jcr (53032) | about 3 years ago | (#37081356)

So, Apple's setting out to solve the print driver problem right when they're making tablets so popular that we don't need hard copy anymore.

-jcr

Re:Ironic timing. (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 3 years ago | (#37081466)

Paper is not one-product away from majorly dropping in popularity. It'll be around when we're buzzing planets in our flying saucers.

Does anyone actually use tablets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081536)

I keep hearing how popular tablets are, but I never actually see anyone using them.

I work in industry at an office in the downtown core of a large American city, but I also get to travel as part of my job, and I lecture part-time at a local college. During a typical week, I'll see thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people, in all sorts of settings doing all sorts of activities. But I very rarely see anyone using an iPad, or any other tablet.

Sometimes I commute by public transit, and I never see people there using them there. I never see people using them when I'm flying to other cities, even across the country. I never see people sitting outdoors using them. I never see people using them while eating lunch or drinking coffee. I never see people using them at my workplace. I never see people using them at the offices of the other companies I visit.

I've only seen my students use them on two occasions before class, but both students put them away and used netbooks instead when the lecture started. The only other time I've seen people use them is at Apple stores.

Tablet users are something that I actively keep an eye out for, but they just don't seem to exist. For all the hype that tablets get, I'd expect to see them actually being used. I mean, I see people using their cell phones. I see people using netbooks. I've even seen more people writing in paper notebooks with pens in the past week than I've seen tablet users in total, over all time.

So I have to ask, does anyone actually use tablets?

Re:Does anyone actually use tablets? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 3 years ago | (#37081682)

I live in the second largest city in Australia. I work in a building which houses several engineering firms and the state police. Tablets are everywhere. Go out for coffee and there will be a tablet on every fourth table or so. Though I think it is a bit of a fad. I think tablets will take a stable chunk of the light laptop use case in the long term.

Re:Does anyone actually use tablets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081720)

Come to San Francisco. They're everywhere.

Re:Does anyone actually use tablets? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081808)

I'm sure Apple products /are/ everywhere in SF. It's a very gay-friendly city, after all.

Re:Ironic timing. (1)

bieber (998013) | about 3 years ago | (#37081556)

right when they're making tablets so popular that we don't need hard copy anymore.

Surely you jest. Even if tablets become absolutely, positively dirt cheap, they still won't be a proper replacement for paper documents.

  • Size. I can't fold up a tablet, put it in my pocket, and take it back out again when I need to look up a subway route. A tablet small enough to be pocketable is also going to be small enough that it will be a royal pain to read anything significant off of it. There's no way I can ever conceive of lugging a tablet around with me just going about everyday tasks, not so long as it has a readable surface large enough to be worthwhile.
  • Durability. If I drop a sheet of paper in water, or even let it go through a wash cycle it will still be readable afterwards. No such luck with electronics.
  • Archiving. Yes, digital archives are superior in almost every way, but for really important documents I want a paper backup that I can still access in case of a power outage.
  • Display. A lot of the things people print are meant to be displayed. This primarily applies to images, but it also goes for things like certificates. Why would I want to replace all the picture frames that just passively sit on my wall with tablets that would need to be powered, not to mention costing more?

Easy distribution. I can very easily hand a person a paper copy of a document. With an electronic copy, we need some kind of digital device to accommodate the transfer, and we have to make sure the document is in some format that both of our devices understand. If you're face to face with another person and all you have are your (possibly different brand) tablets, sharing documents becomes a trickier problem.

Smartphone (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#37081768)

You make valid points, but some of them do have workarounds.

There's no way I can ever conceive of lugging a tablet around with me just going about everyday tasks

Let me guess: man who wouldn't be caught dead with "a purse". I have a bag for my netbook.

for really important documents I want a paper backup that I can still access in case of a power outage.

How long do you expect such outages to last?

With an electronic copy, we need some kind of digital device to accommodate the transfer

Such device could be a mobile phone. I'm under the impression that it has become customary to carry a mobile phone in case of needing to make an urgent call, such as car/bike trouble or notifying someone of one's impending arrival at the locked front door of a multiple-story apartment. The one wrinkle could be that one of the parties is a cheapskate like myself who carries a dumbphone because smartphone service is ten times as expensive as dumbphone service.

and we have to make sure the document is in some format that both of our devices understand

Apple iOS ships with a PDF reader, and several PDF readers are available for Android [the-digital-reader.com] .

xkcd is their inspiration (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081364)

Re:xkcd is their inspiration (1)

mastermind7373 (1932626) | about 3 years ago | (#37081398)

Awww, beat me to it.

never gonna happen (4, Informative)

dltaylor (7510) | about 3 years ago | (#37081384)

Nearly all consumers want CHEAP printers. That means that the translation from text/image to printer imaging codes is done in the computer, not the printer, which saves CPU power and memory in the printer. Look at the difference in price between the typical Windows printer and the Postscript ('specially color) printers. A Windows printer only has to buffer a few raster lines, using the processing power and memory of the host computer, while the Postscript printer has to buffer the entire page, since there could be a command at the end of the page that places something at the top.

Add to this the insanity of any/all software and process patents and it is absolutely in the printer manufacturers' interest to tie the raster-defining codes into obscure and NDA-protected proprietary drivers to avoid tripping over some patent that says " a one bit in this field says put a green dot next on the page".

Re:never gonna happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081464)

Except the price of a printer is nothing compared to its manufacturing cost. Printers are sold well below production cost, but they companies make up for it by spelling incompatible cartridges at insane markup.

Re:never gonna happen (4, Insightful)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | about 3 years ago | (#37081476)

Nearly all consumers want CHEAP printers. That means that the translation from text/image to printer imaging codes is done in the computer, not the printer, which saves CPU power and memory in the printer. Look at the difference in price between the typical Windows printer and the Postscript ('specially color) printers. A Windows printer only has to buffer a few raster lines, using the processing power and memory of the host computer, while the Postscript printer has to buffer the entire page, since there could be a command at the end of the page that places something at the top.

Add to this the insanity of any/all software and process patents and it is absolutely in the printer manufacturers' interest to tie the raster-defining codes into obscure and NDA-protected proprietary drivers to avoid tripping over some patent that says " a one bit in this field says put a green dot next on the page".

You have a good point 10 years ago. Today, processors and memory are so cheap that you could build an entire computer into a printer and still sell it for $150. See also: netbooks, handheld gaming devices, mobile phones.

Re:never gonna happen (2)

demonlapin (527802) | about 3 years ago | (#37081724)

you could build an entire computer into a printer and still sell it for $150

You missed the part where he said "CHEAP", right? $50 or less.

Re:never gonna happen (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | about 3 years ago | (#37081494)

I would consider the HP Color Laserjet 2025dn to be a cheap (for a duplex color laserjet) printer which supports HP's postscript 3 emulation.

Re:never gonna happen (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 3 years ago | (#37081566)

Nearly all consumers want CHEAP printers. That means that the translation from text/image to printer imaging codes is done in the computer, not the printer, which saves CPU power and memory in the printer.

Which means that, to quote the patent, "the information indicates the printer can only support RF", where "RF" means "Raster Format", and therefore that "the system uses RF to send data to the printer".

Re:never gonna happen (1)

Salvo (8037) | about 3 years ago | (#37081626)

Just about all Consumer Printers now support PictBridge, which is practically a Driverless Printing Protocol (or a common-driver Printing Protocol).

HP's ePrint Printers already Behave similar to this, and most of HP's non-ePrint Printers support PCL3 too.

The main reason Drivers are required for printers currently is to gain mindshare on users computer. Snow Leopard's excellent native Driver Support and Windows 7's Device Stage reduce the annoying Product Ads the User is exposed to. Nowadays, the only reason a user needs to know what brand of printer they are printing to is so they know where to find their documents.

Re:Cheap (1)

Phrogman (80473) | about 3 years ago | (#37081644)

I don't want a cheap printer, I want a printer that is cheap to operate. The cheaper the printer, the more the ink cartridges (or whatever) will cost you, the sooner it will break or be abandoned etc. I bought an Laserprinter years ago that would print something like 6000 pgs per laser cartridge. The carts cost $120 or so and the printer cost me $300 plus, but it was far cheaper than replacing the ink carts in a cheap printer continuously at $45-75 each (as with the current printer we have). The only reason I got rid of the old printer was that we bought a newer one that was colour. I would rather have the old one now mind you.

Buying cheap printers and then spending more in the long run is for idiots.

Re:never gonna happen (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081806)

Which would be important if:

A) PS memory/processing requirements were large by modern standards. They aren't. In 1987 you needed server-class CPU and memory to render PostScript. Today you need a 1987 server-class CPU and memory to render PostScript -- i.e. a 10 MHz processor and 8 MB of RAM. Neither of which has any significant cost even when you're talking about sub-$100 consumer equipment.

B) If writing and maintaining driver software was free. It's not. If you sold PS-capable printers you could write *no* software and be compatible with every Windows/MacOS/Linux installation from the last 15 years and probably for the next 15 as well. HP and the like are starting to coming around to this fact, and have at least started to consolidate their own print drivers, but it's still a lot more software work than tweaking a PPD file to note the correct number of paper trays.

Airprint (2)

bradgoodman (964302) | about 3 years ago | (#37081394)

Apple HAS eliminated printer drivers* - It's called AirPrint.

* With iOS

Re:Airprint (2)

Salvo (8037) | about 3 years ago | (#37081732)

PictBridge eliminated Drivers years ago. If it hadn't Camera Firmware would have been bloated and would have needed updating constantly as new Printers came available.

HP ePrint (which AirPrint uses) is based on PCL5 which is Page Description Language like PostScript and PDF.
Rendering a Word or Pages document to a ePrint Printer still requires a driver to convert the RAW GDI of Windows, the PDF of Mac OS X or the PS of Linux to PCL5.

I may be corrected, but either all ePrint-compatible devices (iOS, WebOS) have native PDF-PCL5 drivers, creating the illusion that the printers are driverless or ePrint Printers can also receive native PDF code, resulting in a pure driverless printing system.

That said, iOS renders non-PDF content as PDF's natively; The Word Document you see on your iPhone has already been converted to Display-PDF for the iPhone Screen. I assume WebOS devices behave the same, but would like clarification from anyone more familiar with the second-best Mobile OS.

SLASHDOT IS DYING !! SLASHDOT CONFIRMS IT !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081400)

Man o man o man !! This place is like russian winter festival where only rats come !!

REST (1)

wooptoo (1075345) | about 3 years ago | (#37081418)

Printing via REST. Shazam!

Mr. Anderson (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081444)

What's the point in making paper, when you are unable to print?

Halloween strikes again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081450)

you realize this ENTIRE mess is what the "Halloween Documents" from Microsoft years ago were all about. Microsoft and Intel colluded to keep Window's place in the world. Intel creates things like USB that make cheap hardware that requires complicated software. Microsoft was happy to oblige and that created an environment where every single item needed a driver... so if Microsoft could keep all the hardware makers fighting over constantly changing drivers for just WINDOWS... there was no room for anybody else.

Either way, PCL also works just fine as well. But the support isn't uniform enough (see above) to get reliable printing.. and many printers are now "drivers only" even if they have wireless they still are just porting USB commands over the air.

Re:Halloween strikes again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081468)

and nobody remembers the bit-banger serial printing port of the Tandy 'puters and CoCo?

Re:Halloween strikes again! (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 3 years ago | (#37081516)

Then why do Macs work that way, too? They're not Windows, and they weren't Intel until recently - and didn't have to do Intel the way MS does.

Printer Object (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 3 years ago | (#37081510)

I don't know why the OS can't have a Printer superclass that apps all call with a single unified print API, but that the specific instance of attached printer overrides with a subclass implementing the same interface but in that printer's own ways. Printers are all USB, and can install their subclass when plugging in.

Sure, that's a lot like a driver, but the users and programmers never notice anything but calling members of the Printer object. So the reasons for eliminating "drivers" are satisfied by doing it this way.

Re:Printer Object (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081590)

What you want is BeOS / Haiku, which does just that. ;-)

Re:Printer Object (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 3 years ago | (#37081612)

Printers are all USB

No, they're not. They might be networked printers; the patent makes references to IPP.

So the reasons for eliminating "drivers" are satisfied by doing it this way.

The reasons for eliminating drivers as listed in the patent are

In practice, the wireless computing device may not be configured with the requisite driver software. In this case, installing the appropriate printer driver can be bothersome, especially if the user of the mobile computing device only intends to use the nearby printer once or twice. Also, mobile computing devices have limited storage space, which makes it impractical for them to store a large number of printer drivers.

which I don't see addressed by this. (I'm not sure I believe the "limited storage space" bit, even for "mobile devices" that are "smart phones" rather than laptops.)

Re:Printer Object (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 3 years ago | (#37081726)

TCP/IP printers should do the same thing, when the printing host connects to it the first time - respond with its ThisPrinter subclass.

The Printer superclass in the printing host's OS would have the basic printing API implemented as clients to the remote printer's server, where the rest of the code is stored.

Re:Printer Object (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081636)

What you describe *is* a print driver, and *is* the way printing works on modern Windows, MacOS, CUPS, etc. They all provide a standard interface that collects data in a standard format and forwards it to the hardware-specific driver that handles the actual printer communication and any necessary data transformations.

The problem with that model is that you still need a specific bit of software to print to a specific printer, and that bit of software needs to be maintained for compatibility with new platforms. Try finding a Win7 compatible print driver for a 5-year-old host-based printer and you'll see why users are not satisfied with this model.

The cloud-based model Apple suggests is a bit of a cheat, as it still requires someone to run/maintain the driver, but at least that driver would be available for all Internet-connected platforms, rather then needed a separate one for each OS/hardware combination.

Re:Printer Object (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 3 years ago | (#37081734)

The device doesn't need to find a printer driver. When it is first connected to the printer, the printer hands its driver over the connection to the device.

Re:Printer Object (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37081796)

The device doesn't need to find a printer driver. When it is first connected to the printer, the printer hands its driver over the connection to the device.

Yeah, lets run random code downloaded from a random device when we connect to it. That sounds like a great plan.

Even assuming that the printer includes a driver that the device can run.

Re:Printer Object (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081648)

You just described the concept of a printer subsystem, except using OOP terms. As the first sibling pointed out, operating systems where the user space is in fact in OOP style do exactly what you describe. Other OSes do something equivalent; all you have done is say that printing should be done using user-space print drivers.

Re:Printer Object (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 3 years ago | (#37081742)

The difference is that what I described gives the device the connected printer's driver object when the device first connects to the printer. I described it in OOP terms because that's the best way to describe these things generically, in terms of the things and their interfaces. And because OSes are written in OOP - for that very reason.

good news everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081526)

so like a standard Printer Control Language or maybe some sort of Script for Posting thins to a printer... I wish someone would have thought of that sooner.

Re:good news everyone (2)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 3 years ago | (#37081630)

so like a standard Printer Control Language or maybe some sort of Script for Posting thins to a printer... I wish someone would have thought of that sooner.

No, nothing like that. As noted in this comment [slashdot.org] , there are a lot of cheap non-PostScript printers out there; in the scheme described in the patent, a printer could say "hey, I do PostScript" and the print system could send PostScript to the printer, just as it could say "hey, I do JPEG" and, if what's being printed is a JPEG image, the print system could send the JPEG to the printer, or it could say "hey, I do PDF" and the print system could send a PDF to the printer, or it could say "hey, I only do raster images" and the print system could generate raster images and send them to the printer.

Prior art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081582)

"The second will be via a cloud service"

So, like HP ePrint?

dont know whether to laugh or cry (2)

FudRucker (866063) | about 3 years ago | (#37081608)

it was a closed source printer driver that made Richard Stallman invent the GNU/FOSS software movement, if not for his nemesis GNU would never have been born...

To Read The Fine Patent Application... (4, Informative)

Guy Harris (3803) | about 3 years ago | (#37081670)

It's Patent Application 20110194140 ; here's the application [uspto.gov] .

And, yes, that's Michael "Mr. CUPS" Sweet in the Inventors list.

Wanna print? - have your credit card ready (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37081700)

apple will want to ask "30% of the revenue we generate for the printer - we think' that's fair"

and ink at 50%-200%+ mark up (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 years ago | (#37081736)

and ink at 50%-200%+ mark up

Yet another obvious software patent. (1)

edibobb (113989) | about 3 years ago | (#37081842)

There is nothing novel or nontrivial about printing without a printer driver, and this has been done more than 25 years ago. We can expect this patent application to be approved straightaway.
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