With all the rumors circling about whether or not AirPrint is still a go for iOS and Macs I thought it pertinent to talk a little bit about why AirPrint matters.
The reason I think the lack of AirPrint will set back iOS is because it is seen as something vital for business users, regardless of how often (or if) they ever use the feature. It would be something that Windows driven tablets with USB ports could easily tout as a feature.
Printing doesn’t have a whole lot to do with consumers, it has a lot more to do with business users. Further it has a lot to do with those who try to use the iPad as a primary computer, yet I don’t think those people care much about AirPrint as they do about the ability to print wirelessly to select printers.1
I find it hard to believe that Apple would be willing to kill off printing.
They certainly don’t mind killing off optical media (DVD drives) because there are commonly accepted alternatives that have become ubiquitous and cheap for everyone: flash drives. Printing, though, has no alternative – geeks may argue that PDFs are the alternative, but for the majority of the people in the world PDFs are nice, but no substitute for paper.
Paper, you see, is still king in business.
If I had to guess I would say it will take another 5 years to get rid of paper on a whole, to where it is something more akin to the current snail mail versus email system that we have in place today. Until paper stops becoming such a pertinent medium for businesses (that is until filing cabinets start giving way to HDs and servers) printing will be an important part of a business persons arsenal.
If the iPad is your primary machine then AirPrint through a shared printer is irrelevant – you don’t have another computer. ↩