It seems Microsoft is getting a bit desperate. The company has announced that one of the big new features in Windows 8.1 will be native support for 3D printers.
The OS update will feature device-specific APIs for 3D printers, which means that sooner or later 3D printing will work out of the box, with any Windows 8.1 box and a commercially available 3D printer. It will no doubt come as a shot in the arm for the 3D printing industry, which has a lot of potential as it is.
However, 3D printing is not mainstream yet and it won’t be for years to come. 3D printers will remain prohibitively expensive and most people just won’t need one. Microsoft wants to tell the world that it still has foresight and that its products will be future-proof, which is always a good thing.
Microsoft sees 3D printing as a huge opportunity - and it should. However, in the short term native 3D printer support doesn’t really mean much, since Windows 8.x will be eclipsed by a new OS well before we see 3D printers in average homes and offices. Microsoft claims 70 percent of 3D printing is done on the Windows platform already, so it views the decision to integrate native support as strategically prudent.
Although the OS and PC might be ready for 3D printing, 3D printers themselves still have a long way to go. The cheapest units still cost well over $1,000 and they are rather limited. For serious work, users have to dish out a lot more and go for pricier models.