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Google launches Cloud Print

Apple’s AirPrint technology may not be quite ready for primetime (at least outside of a few specialised printers), but that’s not stopping Google from offering its own competing service, aptly christened Google Cloud Print.

Announced on the Google’s Gmail blog on yesterday, Cloud Print allows you to register one or more of your printers with Google’s cloud services and associate them to your GMail account. Once you have done so, you can print e-mails and selected attachments (which includes any file format that GMail can render, such as HTML, DOC, and PDF) directly from your phone’s GMail interface, regardless of whether you are on the same network as your printers or not.

The registration process is simple enough: it consists of downloading a special beta version of Google Chrome from the Cloud Print Website, installing it on a computer connected to a printer that you want to make available through the service, and enabling the printer

Unfortunately, Google has made available only a Windows version of the Chrome beta, which means that OS X users are, at least for the moment, locked out of the Cloud Print. However, Google promises that Mac and Linux versions of the software will be “coming soon.” Interestingly, the company has also opened the Cloud Print interface specification, paving the way for printer manufacturers to create their own “Cloud Print-aware” devices that can connect to the service without having to go through a computer.

The installation of what is essentially a piece of software that connects your computer to Google clearly raises some serious security questions–a fact that must not have escaped the company, which addresses several of them in the FAQ. In essence, printed information is only kept for as long as it takes to complete a print job and “to improve printing quality,” a rather nebulous term that doesn’t quite explain whether Google gets to hang on to your documents or not. Either way, all the data is covered by Google’s exhaustive privacy policy.

The client-side printing functionality offered by Google Cloud Print works with any device compatible with GMail’s mobile service, including all versions of the iPhone and the iPad, without any special software. For the printer side of things, you will need a PC running Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 until a Mac-friendly version of the software becomes available.

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