Apple enabled print ordering from within iPhoto for its UK customers late last night.

During his Macworld Expo keynote in January this year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the feature would be enabled for Europe's consumers in March 2004. Jobs offered a rare apology for the wait: "Sorry it took us so long," he said.

It's believed Apple has been hampered in its attempt to deliver the feature outside the US because it has been looking for a partner that can deliver the service internationally. It partners with Kodak in the US.

Apple has enabled both the capacity to order prints (in a variety of sizes) and also the ability to order leather-bound photo books in several different styles: Catalog; Classic; Collage; Picture Book; Portfolio; Story Book and Year Book. Different colours are available.

Pictures cost from 23 pence each (4-x-6-inch) to £1.69 (8-x-12-inch). Local rate VAT and a £1.99 shipping charge is also levied on each order. "To order prints, you need an Apple account with 1-Click ordering enabled. If you don't have an Apple account, you can create one in just a few minutes by clicking Set Up Account," Apple says.

"Just select the photos for which you want prints, click the Order Prints button at the bottom of the iPhoto window, and iPhoto will step you through the painless process. You get prints of the same (or better) quality you’re used to getting from that cross-town lab, but you do everything from your Mac, placing your order effortlessly over the Internet," Apple says.

Reader reports indicate photo ordering is only available to Mac users with iLife 04, which costs £39.

Delayed rollout

The facility to order high-quality prints from within the application has been available to Apple's US customers since the application was launched at Macworld Expo in January 2002.

When iPhoto was launched 26 months ago, Jobs called it "the missing link" in digital photography: "Digital cameras are revolutionizing the way we take pictures. iPhoto revolutionizes the way we save, organize, share and enjoy them," he said, "iPhoto will change the way people manage and share their digital photos," Jobs promised.

Speaking last year, Apple sources told Macworld that Apple wanted to extend its relationship with Kodak internationally. They claimed that under Apple's then-existing deal with Kodak, the company had to ensure that a certain number of prints were processed annually, and that an international deal would facilitate reaching such mutually agreed targets.

Kodak introduced its Ofoto online print ordering service in autumn 2003. Ofoto Europe's vice president Andreas Sautter said: "Ofoto can certainly see the Mac community's wish to extend iPhoto's service to Europe, but we cannot confirm it is taking place," and saying his company was "very happy with the existing relationship" with Apple in the US.

Call to action

Macworld UK and Europe's Mac users have been strenuous in their demands that Apple enable the feature here. There have been petitions, campaigns and a steady stream of reader letters and diatribes in online discusison forums.

February 2003 saw an International iPhoto Day of Action when Mac users wrote to Apple to ask why the service wasn't available outside the US.

Many Mac users saw the lack of such an offering as a evidence of a US-centric attitude on the part of their favourite computer company.

However, Apple sources told Macworld in June 2002: "Apple is in negotiations with online digital-photo-processing service providers – we have a schedule for this". The insider had expected to launch a service then, but new reports since state that deals reached were unacceptable to the company. No reason was given.

A recent Macworld Online poll clearly illustrated Macworld readers' desire for the service. Over half of those who voted in that poll said they intend using iPhoto's print ordering feature when they could, with a third of respondents saying they would buy iPhoto books.

One reader said: "My other half is going to love it when an iPhoto book turns up detailing the first year of our son's life. I also expect to use the book format for special occasions and gifts for relatives – the grandparents will love it."

Macworld readers – is there anything you'd like to say now that Apple has enabled this most-requested feature?