Microsoft is overhauling the way printing works in Windows 8 in order to ensure that printing "just works", but also because Windows RT will only support drivers that are built into the platform, the company has disclosed.
In a detailed posted on the Building Windows 8 blog, Microsoft revealed that Windows 8 will see the first major overhaul of the printing subsystem since Windows 2000. It is aiming to drastically cut the amount of disk space needed for print drivers while trying to include support for as large a percentage as possible of the printers that are already used by Microsoft customers.
Microsoft said it needed to ensure that as many printers as possible are supported out-of-the-box, as ARM-based devices running the Windows RT version of Windows 8 will only be able to access these.
"In-box drivers are essential for Windows RT - in fact, it uses only in-box printer drivers. The challenge here is to get a relevant set of printers supported, but to also reduce the resources required to accomplish this," said Adrian Lannin, lead programme manager on Microsoft's Printing team.
On x86 systems, Microsoft said that Windows 8 will still support drivers created for the previous print architecture, used in Windows 2000 through to Windows 7.
"So if you only have an existing driver available for your current printer, then it should still work in Windows 8," Lannin said.
As part of the overhaul, Microsoft has created a new print class driver framework for Windows 8. This has been designed to be extensible, so as to support printing to existing devices while allowing printer vendors to add support for new devices in future.
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