Few days ago when I wanted to install a new printer in my Windows box I had to waste my time on finding the correct driver for the printer , it was a pain for me. And the interesting thing is if I want to switch to some other printer then I need to install a new printer driver as well which double the pain. Well when look at the problem closely it has some drawback though installing a driver is not a big deal (for some others :) ).
Now Web services are paling a major role in the industry and a lot of applications are moving and converting to Web service applications. In such a situation why cant we use Web service technology when getting a printout. We can install a Web service engine inside the printer and when we want to get a printout what we can do is to send a Web service request.
Since the Web service communication taken place in SOAP level we do not need to worry about having different printer drivers for different printers [getting a printer out will be same as invoking a some other Web service]. With this approach when we browse to a printer it will show up its WSDL , so the printer setting and everything will be there in the WSDL. Therefore when we need to get a printout what we need to do is just to send a Web service request to the printer , the printer name will be specified by the target EPR . If we want to optimize the message we are sending we can send the document as a MTOM attachment. [Like wise if we want to secure the printout we can use WS-Security and ect..]
Other interesting thing is Web service engine such as Axis2 has inbuilt support for SMTP transport , so we can configure a printer to listen to a particular mail address and we can use that instated of FAX. So if some one want to send a FAX to me , he can send the document to the mail address which I have given him as my FAX number (need to find a name for this technology) so that the printer will print the mail document [which is same as sending a FAX] . I hope you may have bad experience with sending FAX , issues like FAX machine is busy , not responding etc etc [not only that the cost factor involve with sending international FAXs], so all those can be avoid when we use printer with SMTP.
If we can do this in the future we can see the printer with the following configurations
WSDL 1.1 and WSDL 2.0 support
MTOM and SWA support
MTOM support with free configured mail address
WS-Policy support (for specifying printer properties )
I do not know whether someone has already came up with this idea and has implemented this, but this just came into my mind when I faced the mentioned issue.