Another dimension will be added to workgroup collaboration in 2000 when the Internet is used to send files directly to printers all over the world.
The Printer Working Group (PWG), which is composed of all leading printer vendors, ratified version 1.0 of the Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) and sent it on to the Internet Engineering Task Force for final approval.
Despite the fact that Internet printing solutions already exist within Unix and Mac OS products, the goal of the PWG is to give IT organisations a single unified solution.
In addition to being able to submit jobs directly to printers, rather than through PCs, system administrators will be able to give desktop users more flexibility in managing their own print jobs.
Users will be able to learn the status of a print job, cancel a print request, and discover a printer's features before sending a file.
"Eventually, if IPP-compliant, a printer will have a Web address, and anyone around the world who can get on the Internet can print to that URL," said Robert Palmer, editor of the HardCopy Report, a printer industry publication based in Boston.
However, security issues still remain.
"Security is not defined for v1.0. You would [do] best to use IPP within the enterprise and not make it accessible from outside the firewall," said Don Wright, director of strategic and technical alliances at Lexmark International, in Lexington, Kentucky.
A Hewlett-Packard spokeswoman agreed that security is a key issue, but noted that in some cases, the printer must reside on the other side of the firewall.
"Until there is a complete security solution, the printer would have to be outside of the firewall," said Emily Hart, an HP spokeswoman, in Cupertino, California "For example, in a hotel, the business centre could receive print jobs in a high-quality colour printout instead of faxes."
It is unclear whether v1.1, scheduled for approval in April, will incorporate additional security features, Hart said.
Nevertheless, support for IPP is emerging.
"We are integrating IPP into our NetWare Distributed Print Service [NDPS]," said Brad Christensen, product manager at Novell, in Orem, Utah.
NDPS integrates printers with Novell Directory Services for manageability.
"An administrator could manage printers from a hotel room," Christensen said.
The Printer Working Group can be reached at www.pwg.org