Image courtesy of Lantronix
The xPrintServer by Lantronix helps iPads print.

As elegant as they are, the Apple iPhones and iPads surging into the workplace still have a few rough edges, including the limited number of printers that work with them.

But that's about to change.

In February, Lantronix, an Irvine, Calif.-based technology firm, will start shipping the xPrintServer, a $149 plug-and-play device that can be added to any network Ethernet port, allowing wireless iOS devices to print out at almost any subnet printer. Early testers rave about it.

The need stems from Apple's iOS engineering, which supports only AirPrint-compatible printers. While the number of models is growing, legacy printers are out of luck.

Kurt Busch, "a big iPad user," came up with the idea four months ago during his second week on the job as Lantronix CEO. Frustrated by the inability to print from his iPad, he realized the company already made a device that could be modified to plug into a network, inventory available printers, reach out to a cloud server and download drivers from a library of thousands, and then use the open-source Common Unix Printing System protocol to make virtually any printer compatible with the iOS devices on the fly. They simply show up and print. It took four months from idea to hot product launch. "I am pretty happy with this one," Busch says. 