When it comes to the publishing industry, the iPad may not be the savior Rupert Murdoch is looking for. But it may not matter. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) is increasingly positioning its tablet as a business device, and even a laptop alternative.
This week, the Mac maker introduced AirPrint for wirelessly printing from any iOS device. The kicker: There's "no set up, no configuration, no printer drivers, and no software to download," Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller said in a statement.
AirPrint will be a feature of the forthcoming 4.2 version of iOS. It's built to automatically detect wireless networks in range of an iOS device, and then automatically negotiate printing privileges. Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE: HPQ ) printers will be first to support AirPrint, Apple said in announcing the new software.
The feature comes at an interesting time. According to the latest data from researcher ComScore, Android has stolen Windows Mobile's market share and put pressure on the BlackBerry and iOS in the process. That's good news for Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and Android handset sellers Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) and HTC; bad news for Apple, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) , and Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) .
AirPrint may not provide much relief, but I'm not sure it needs to. What's important is that Apple is focused on making iOS a functional system for mobile business. Adding printing means the more extreme among us could use an iPad as a laptop replacement.
Whether any of us does isn't really the point. Adding low-maintenance business features such as AirPrint should help Apple appeal to corporate technology managers tasked with holding together an infrastructure built to support hundreds of PCs and smartphones.
That's my take. Now it's your turn to weigh in. Will AirPrint become a competitive advantage for iOS and Apple? Please vote in the poll below and then scroll down to leave a comment to explain your thinking. Don't forget to check back later to see how your fellow Fools are voting.