Microsoft’s New Cloud-Hosted Service for Corporate Users? Desktop Printing

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By letting cloud customers print from their own desktops and devices, Microsoft is launching a new service to save enterprises and institutions time and money while scraping business from Google and Amazon.

The technology giant’s Universal PrintOpens a new window offering simplifies the IT landscapes for businesses and educational institutions large and small. It lessens their need for dedicated print servers housed on premises or in hybrid cloud data centers.

The concept isn’t new. Google has offered a similar cloud-hosted service for a decade but is now abandoning it, clearing the field for Microsoft, best known for its Windows operating systems and computer software

Both companies are nipping at the heelsOpens a new window of Amazon Web Services, the global leader for cloud services.

Functional Enterprise Flexibility

According to executives at Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, Universal Print is a “simple, easy print experience” built into the Windows Print operating system. It’s run by dedicated servers in the Office 365 Cloud, a suite of tools that includes calendar, email, database and document creation and storage.

It means that Microsoft’s Azure’s Cloud customers no longer need to maintain dedicated print servers. What’s more, Universal Print makes printer drivers obsolete on wireless devices.

Joined with Azure’s Active Directory for managing access to IT resources, Universal Print improves an organization’s security, the executives say. Shared controls with the Windows Print operating system also reduce the burden on workers. They’re pleased, the company reports, with the ease of onboarding and happy that no formal training is required for using the service.

Demystifying Hybrid Structures

Microsoft says that Universal Print marks a logical next-stepOpens a new window for organizations revamping system architectures by migrating more of their nonessential computing and storage services to the cloud. And it cites its own solution, dubbed “Widows Server Hybrid Cloud Print,” as indicative of the relief offered by shifting print-server functions completely to the cloud.

The company’s hybrid kit, however, contains a laundry lisOpens a new window t of systems requirements that would-be users must meet ahead of deployment. And it includes a lengthy series of instructions and consents for onboarding apps, APIs, workstations, devices and printers.

Coupled with the constraints faced by smaller commercial users for managing security and hardware, Universal Print opens the door to a wider base of potential customers for Office 365 and the Azure cloud. Microsoft is offering all of them the chance to test the service, which was launched in early March.

Replicating The Market

Universal Print’s debut coincides with Google’s retrenchmentOpens a new window , which has given rise to speculation that the Alphabet subsidiary decided to abandon cloud printing management centers because its Chrome operating system failed to penetrate the cloud market.

Google says that its corporate customers who have run the cloud printing service since 2010 have until the end of the year to find another solution. Users of PCs, tablets and Android devices with the Chrome OS must rely on print applications and printer drivers designed to run solely on those devices, Google says.

Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services, a subsidiary of the e-commerce giant, sells third-party cloud printing systems in its marketplace but it doesn’t offer a branded management service.

Microsoft is taking advantage of the gaps left by both competitors. In addition to creating the new cloud printing service, it’s offering customers proxy apps and is working with Canon’s Image Runner Advance and Office series on a project to connect and embed cloud-native functionality in printer hardware.

By broadening its enterprise palette to embrace print functionality, Microsoft believes it can grow its business among enterprises and institutions that are seeking an integrated providerOpens a new window as they transform their operations with the cloud.