CUPERTINO, CA—Apple Computer, producer of the successful iPod MP3 player, is now offering consumers limited rights to buy their own home movies from the media store iTunes for $1.99 each.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the future of home-video viewing is now," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said at a media event Tuesday morning. "As soon as you record that precious footage of your daughter's first steps, you'll be able to buy it right back from iTunes and download it directly to your computer and video iPod."
Jobs emphasized that the videos will be presented unedited and in their original form, save for a small Apple logo in the lower right-hand corner of the image to protect the company's copyrighted materials from Internet piracy.
Added Jobs: "No more searching through your movies folder for that footage of your 50th wedding anniversary. Now all you need is a 768Kbps broadband connection and your credit card, and every timeless personal memory you've ever shot will be right at your fingertips."
"Apple has always been about access," said MacAddict editor Ian Smythe. "Thanks to this revolutionary new software, all your clips—from your son's bris to your father's dying message—are available to you, your loved ones, and the 20 million iTunes users, who will be able to view them on up to five different computers."
Apple currently owns an average of 20 gigabytes of digital footage per American family, and it has also acquired an enormous library of the tens of millions of analog-format home movies dating from the early decades of the 20th century through 2001.
"No more disappointment for Cynthia Hamill of Hartford, CT when she realizes she can't find that tape of herself singing 'Sweet Caroline' in the bath as an 8-year-old," Jobs said. "For only a couple of bucks, that cherished moment can again be hers."
Early reaction to the home-video downloads has been positive. "$1.99 seems reasonable to be able to relive my high-school graduation anytime I want," said Patrick Boyd of Pensacola, FL. "My parents don't understand the technology, but I can help them get it running whenever they want to watch it."
"It's just a matter of convenience," Mansfield, OH resident Samantha Davidoff said. "Why should I sift through the dozens of unlabeled DV tapes in my closet to find that submission tape I made for Extreme Makeover when I can just do a search on iTunes? Repurchasing my own stuff has never been this intuitive."
However, some early users report running into technical glitches with the software.
"I was really looking forward to watching my son's Easter greeting from Iraq," Eugene, OR resident Luka Bartoli said. "But the image froze and an alert came up saying it was temporarily unavailable due to low bandwidth. I miss my boy so much."
Some users say they have had trouble with the automated process by which previews are chosen for their new footage.
"We were all excited to watch [daughter] Tabitha's birth when we got home from the hospital, but we could only view a 30-second clip before we had to buy it," Harvey Gaddis of Tulsa, OK said. "All we could see in the preview were some of the initial contractions."
Others say the pricing can be restrictive and is not always timely.
"I wanted to show my boyfriend a video I made for his birthday of me dancing in my underwear to our favorite song," Jessica Dupree of Manchester, NH said. "But his credit card was declined. I guess he'll just have to get it from someone at work."
Despite these limitations, observers predict consumers will have little choice once they realize how vast and comprehensive the collection is. Many amateur filmmakers are already making a strong showing in the iTunes videos charts.
Eliza Quintana of Montclair, NJ, went online to purchase her daughter's fourth birthday party to find that it had reached No. 5 on the top video downloads.
Said Quintana: "I guess I'm not the only one who thinks she's the most adorable little girl in the world!"