The Current State of iOS Printing
Printing from an Apple iOS Device
If you’ve an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you might have heard of something called AirPrint. A highly anticipated feature that debuted in iOS 4.2, it allows AirPrint-enabled apps on your iOS device to wirelessly print to an AirPrint-supported printer residing on the same Wi-Fi network. The proposition is certainly very attractive: You don’t need to install any driver or configure a printer. In Apple’s own words, all you need to do is to “tap print, select the printer that supports AirPrint, and print.”
In the beginning, only a handful of HP printers supported AirPrint. But last we checked, there are now more than 130 printers - from the likes of Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, and Lexmark - that support it. Still, this is a small number compared to the hundreds of printer models currently out in the market. Another alternative is to hope that your printer’s manufacturer would release its own app in the App Store so that you can use it as a gateway to print your documents.
Third party apps have also stepped in to bring iOS wireless printing to printers that don’t support AirPrint. One popular app is Printopia. But like other similar apps, you’ve to install it on a host Mac. The printer can be attached to the Mac via USB, or plugged to a router; the important point is that the Mac must be able to ‘see’ the printer and print to it, in order for you to be able to share it with your iOS devices. For Windows users, one such AirPrint-enabling software is FingerPrint.
What if we could print wirelessly from our iOS devices to any networked printers - even non-AirPrint-enabled ones - without the need to install any app on our iOS devices or desktop machines? This would be tremendously useful for companies too, especially those with a huge fleet of printers, and those that have strict policies on what their employees can or cannot install on their workstations.
Well, enter xPrintServer from Lantronix (a California-headquartered company that deals with secure communication technologies), which promises just that. In addition, the product literature claims of automatic printer discovery and provisioning, with zero configuration (using zeroconf) needed. Intrigued by all these promises, we brought one into our lab for a test drive. Read on to find out if it delivers.