Some Web 2.0 applications are Web-based solutions in search of problems. They’re all jargon and no juice. That’s not the case with CloudPrint: This new Hewlett-Packard service lets you use HP computing power in the cloud,” that is, via the Internet, to store and print documents from any PC with an Internet connection.
The idea: You’re stuck traveling with your notebook, PDA and/or phone, but there’s nary a printer in sight. You want to print, say a presentation. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could log on at any PC with web access and a printer, in say, your client’s office, a hotel business center, or a copy store, grab your document as an Adobe Acrobat .PDF file, and print? That’s one thing CloudPrint lets you do.
When you sign up for CloudPrint, you download a virtual printer driver to your PC. From here on, when you choose “print”, you see CloudPrint as an option: You pick it and enter your cell phone’s telephone number, as well as the cell phone number of anyone else you’d like to send the document along to (colleagues, your assistant, or a family member, perhaps.) Your document is sent to the “cloud” for storage. You and your recipients get an SMS message that a document is waiting. This message has a document code that you enter at the CloudPrint website (along with your phone number): Now you get a .PDF file and are ready to print.
I’m betting that many of you, like me, can think of several times in your traveling past when this option would have been quite welcome. Did I mention that the service is free? (Aside from your cell phone charges, of course.)
Sure, you may not want to store every document on HP’s servers, but there are an awful lot of documents that you could leave there without worry. I can envision people in sales and consulting leaving copies of several presentations on these servers, for easy retrieval on demand. (If you have ever been in sales or consulting, or have been married to someone who is, you have no doubt done a few mad dashes to print a slide deck.) You can easily see how CloudPrint adds some flexibility. For now, at least, HP says you can store those documents as long as desired.
HP will even help you find a nearby printer: You plug in your address or ZIP code and they suggest publicly available printers (from an online directory they’re still compiling.)
According to HP, the service is still in pre-release mode, so they’re working out a few kinks. But as PC World editor and blogger Melissa Perenson notes in her early review of the service, CloudPrint looks pretty clean for something HP says has been developed in a matter of several weeks.
I am a fan of Web-based apps. They just plain make sense, given the way many of us live and work today, for the simple flexibility to log on and do what needs to be done, no matter where we happen to be stuck at the moment. And among Web-based apps, CloudPrint seems to have its feet firmly on the ground.