November 22, 2010, 2:27 PM — Printer vendors, accustomed to letting their devices make most of the noise, adopted a quietly watchful stance amid the speculation surrounding Apple's iOS 4.2 AirPrint feature.
AirPrint facilitates the wireless printing of documents from the iPhone 4 and 3GS, 3G and 4G iPod touch, and the iPad, to compatible printers (right now, five HP ePrint models).
AirPrint originally meant more than that. The announcement of AirPrint--by Steve Jobs at Apple's September 1 media event--also touted a networking function that, in conjunction with the Mac OS 10.6.5 update, would allow Apple's mobile devices to print to any networked printer regardless of brand. This cross-platform, vendor agnostic, Wi-Fi networking feature that would automatically find printers on a local network and, without installing software, let you print from them, is the part that got delayed at the last minute, leaving users with HP as the sole printing option.
Despite public circumspection on the issue, vendors are keeping a close eye on how Apple handles this hotly anticipated feature, and are advancing their own strategies to serve users with iOS devices irregardless of AirPrint.
A Macworld spot check of printer vendors reveals that they acknowledge the importance of AirPrint and have staked out roughly three, non-mutually exclusive positions: Watch and keep all options on the table; offer proprietary solutions that match, complement, or exceed AirPrint's capabilities; and consider AirPrint functionality for the future.
Lexmark's approach is a good example of the first strategy. According to Kathy Edwards, Lexmark's corporate communications manager, "Currently, we do not have any products that operate with AirPrint. Lexmark's product development team continues to evaluate Apple products and solutions, but I'm unable to comment on future compatibility." The folks at Konica Minolta take a similar stance saying, "Our R&D team is investigating Apple AirPrint and are evaluating its potential. We have not developed a specific plan to make our printers and MFPs compatible with Apple AirPrint to date."
Kyocera says its "working on" an agreement, but that nothing is set in stone yet. Similarly, Dell has stated that while it currently has no models or a set timetable for AirPrint support, it's something the company is "working towards."