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Tuesday, August 14, 2007, 06:05 am PT (09:05 am ET)

Apple stirs controversy with iMovie's '08 overhaul

Hailed as a breakthrough in movie editing by Apple chief Steve Jobs, the complete rework of iMovie for iLife '08 has angered some customers who found that many longstanding features had suddenly gone missing.

The company's support discussions for its new video editing tool were the home of several vocal debates in the weekend following its launch, with at least a few disappointed customers arguing that they had been misled by an Apple marketing campaign which suggested a direct successor to iMovie HD '06 rather than a from-scratch product with missing features.

"I even bought iLife just to install iMovie 8 next to my versions of Avid and Final Cut Pro," said one user. "I was thinking that for quick cutting of simple projects this would get me there faster than my 'pro' apps. [But] it is a weakling compared to the old iMovie. [There's] no decent audio control, [a] loss of rubber banding, and weak video [effects]."

Users elsewhere have also complained about the lack of chapter markers and exact playhead positioning, the need for a 1.9GHz G5 processor or better just to run the software, and the inability to port over earlier iMovie projects. Apple's release of iMovie HD 6 as a free download for customers of iLife '08 has been seen by many in the discussions as an attempt to placate early adopters who were disappointed by either the feature set or the lack of continuity from earlier versions.

For some, the shift in focus from preparing complex movie projects to simpler titles for YouTube and other websites was enough to suggest that just naming the program iMovie was an error, and that it should have been released as a companion product rather than a direct replacement. "It should have been named iTube or iVideo," one user reported, making allusions to its YouTube upload feature.

The reaction may spell trouble ahead for Apple and its hopes for the editing suite in the short term. The Mac maker declared at its August special event that iMovie '08 was a completely new program inspired by one of its own staffers. The employee had been frustrated by the difficulty in quickly editing footage he had captured during a diving vacation and created a prototype editor himself. This became the foundation for the final program, Apple said, as it potentially signaled a far easier way to assemble final videos than the conventional timeline.

But for those buyers with more advanced needs or who have simply become familiar with the basic concepts behind earlier versions, the new iMovie has so far been interpreted as an experiment that didn't justify the $79 price for an existing user.

"After discovering this was a stripped down version, I fortunately found my other version of iMovie HD and dragged the icon into tool bar," said one complaint. "I feel ripped off and as a recent Apple from PC convert, I'm still not totally sold on Apple products. I'm hoping they'll take this software back and [I] can uninstall the entire iLife '08 software."