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Microsoft Previews Universal Print Provisioning Tool

Microsoft this week announced a provisioning tool at the preview stage for organizations trying Universal Print.

The Universal Print Printer Provisioning Tool is just a bunch of downloadable files that get deployed to Windows 10 machines by IT pros using the Microsoft Endpoint Manager client management solution. The tool, at preview version 0.1, was actually released back in July.

Universal Print is based on the Internet Print Protocol (IPP) standard from the Printer Working Group. It's a cloud-based approach promising to do away with having to manage local print servers and overseeing print drivers. Various printer device companies are currently working to include native Universal Print support in their new hardware products, which will likely appear sometime next year.

In the interim, Microsoft offers a connector solution that adds Universal Print support to older printers. Paid Microsoft 365 subscribers are currently able to try a preview version of Universal Print.

Update 9/11: Microsoft this week described licensing details for using the Universal Print preview in this announcement and in this one. In a nutshell, the preview is currently available to E3 and E5 Enterprise and A3 and A5 Education subscribers. The preview also will be coming to Microsoft 365 F3 and Microsoft 365 Business Premium subscribers at some point.

Organizations typically like to assign certain printers to various end users. The Universal Print Provisioning Tool preview can be used for that purpose. The tool just works with newer Windows 10-based devices, namely those devices running Windows 10 versions 2004, 1909 or 1903.

Alternatively, end users can be empowered to add printers to their Windows 10 devices. However, preconfiguring printers for end users is seen as an advantage during the current pandemic scenario when many people work from home.

"This [printer preconfiguration capability] becomes even more important when employees are working from home, but still need to send print jobs to an office printer to keep certain business processes going," explained Microsoft's Saurabh Bansal in the announcement.

The Universal Print Printer Provisioning Tool basically creates a "printers.csv" file to specify default printers for end users. Setting up the tool, though, involves a manual five-step process that's outlined in this Microsoft document.

The provisioning tool is at the preview stage and maybe not polished. However, its setup does seem a bit clunky for a tool that's designed to avoid overall print management drudgery. A reader of Microsoft's announcement suggested making it as easy to use as setting a Microsoft Intune policy. Microsoft at least appears to be contemplating that prospect.

"To use an Intune policy, there needs to be some work done in Windows which is being looked at for future releases," Bansal explained in the comments section of Microsoft's announcement.

Microsoft officials had indicated back in May that Universal Print for Microsoft 365 subscribers would be expected to reach "general availability," or commercial release, sometime in Q4 of this year. It's likely that a Microsoft 365 Enterprise, Education or Business subscription will be needed to use it when it's commercially released.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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