March 10, 1997 10:00 AM ET
XCD taps the Web to bolster remote printing services
By Scott Berinato

  XCD Inc. is utilizing the web to improve remote support for its Ethernet print servers.

XCD will introduce this week PrintraNet software, which allows users to print on any networked printer across the Internet from within an application by creating a virtual port that looks just like the usual LPT1.

When a PrintraNet print job is sent to this virtual port, it's converted to a standard E-mail message (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension-encoded) and sent in packets over the Web. The remote printer receives the E-mail, prints it and can return a message acknowledging receipt of the print job, said XCD officials in Tustin, Calif.

Joy Jones, a specialist at Bell South Corp., in Birmingham, Ala., isn't using a remote printing application. Instead, she relies on Internet fax applications. However, Internet faxing does involve some cumbersome steps for our users who aren't so PC-literate, Jones said. We want to give those users something simple, and this could be better.

One limitation of this approach is that E-mail is not real-time, so mission-critical print jobs could sit in a queue for minutes or hours before printing, officials said.

However, the Windows 95 PrintraNet software is suitable for most printing, and when the Internet Engineering Task Force approves an Internet Printing Protocol, XCD officials said they would support it with real-time remote printing software. IETF approval for the protocol is expected later this year.

XCD also will tap the Web for other printing initiatives, including a second-quarter release of a Web-based version of X-Admin, its print management package, officials said.

PrintraNet will ship in April for $49 per client.

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