Kodak is preparing to launch its online photo-development service Ofoto in the UK and Europe, indicating that iPhoto's print-ordering feature may finally be made available to non-US users.

Apple directs US iPhoto users to the Ofoto/Kodak service from within the print ordering feature of that application.

Sources close to Apple suggest the company has been seeking a pan-European deal to enable a photo print-service from within iPhoto here. Indications are that regional efforts to achieve this have been undermined by Apple's need to achieve such a Europe-wide deal.

Beyond the US Kodak's European Ofoto service will launch in late September, Kodak confirmed today, adding: "It would be true to say that Apple and Kodak would want to supply a similar service to iPhoto beyond the US. It would make sound business sense to extend the service to Europe."

Though unable to make a statement for the record, the source claimed it was "very likely" that Apple and Ofoto would link-up to provide online photo ordering through iPhoto in Europe.

Multiple-language Web sites are in development to deliver Ofoto services in Europe. The UK site shows prices in sterling, while others show them in Euros, or alternative currencies.

Ofoto does not offer a Mac OS X version of its uploading software for print ordering. It supports Classic Mac OS, while US Mac OS X users are driven to employ iPhoto to deliver images to the company. iPhoto is built for Mac OS X.

Introduced at Macworld Expo San Francisco in January 2002, iPhoto – now at version 2 – is an all-in-one application that imports, organizes, edits and shares digital-still images.

Digital revolution "Digital cameras are revolutionizing the way we take pictures. iPhoto revolutionizes the way we save, organize, share and enjoy them," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs when announcing iPhoto.

Apple's decision to put international Mac users' desire for online digital-print ordering on hold for so long has attracted controversy.

European Mac users have been waiting for Apple to deliver the capacity to order prints from within iPhoto for a year and a half. US consumers, meanwhile, have benefited from this feature since launch. Apple has been taken to task on this issue.

Most recently, one Mac activist ran an International iPhoto Day of Action, urging iPhoto fans to "lodge a complaint about the lack of effort and indifference in bringing these features to the rest of the world".

Many Mac users accuse Apple of having a blind spot to its non-US user base, which accounted for 39 per cent of sales in the last quarter.

Another iPhoto protestor said: "Apple gives us wonderful products, but it does seem bad at acknowledging there is a world outside the US."

However, the relationship between Apple and Ofoto is very strong.

Apple made a major cash investment in Ofoto in January 2001 – a year before iPhoto's release. A group of investors, including Apple, HP, the Rosewood Venture Group, Benchmark Capital, Index Ventures and the Barksdale Group, provided Ofoto with $41 million in second-round funding at that time.

Ofoto has achieved significant market traction since launch. Kodak's most recent quarterly report (dated April 24, 2003) says: "The Ofoto business almost doubled its sales in the first quarter of 2003 as compared with the prior year quarter. Ofoto now has 6.5 million members and is consistently achieving a repeat customer purchase rate of greater than 50 per cent."

Success in the emerging digital imaging market is crucial for Kodak, which has seen traditional photo development and photo paper sales decline.

Gross profit for Kodak's photography segment was $502 million for the first quarter of 2003.

Apple has so far declined to comment on the story.