Well, it has only taken a decade to get this together: 10 years since Apple launched iMovie in 1999, Microsoft has finally shipped its own version of a straightforward, easy-to-use video manipulation solution for Windows users, Windows Live Movie Maker.

Redmond bills its new consumer sofware as “the one-minute way to turn photos and videos into great-looking movies that are easy to share – for free.”

This Microsoft iMovie pretender has been in beta-testing for a year. It doesn’t attempt to be a full movie-making suite, but does let users make movies out of their own video assets and still images. And just like iMovie it lets users spice up clips with music, transitions and titles. Also like iMovie it offers one feature which can automatically mix defined assets together to create a video.

In another neat trick, of course, Microsoft has ensure its ten years in the waiting iMovie equivalent doesn’t work with the most popular WIndows flavour out there, Windows XP.

“Change isn’t always easy,” a Microsoft staffer explains in this blog post, “and I know there have been some growing pains as we’ve moved from Windows Movie Maker to Windows Live Movie Maker. I want to address one thing we think you might be concerned about – OS support. In order to take advantage of the latest and greatest technologies available on the Windows platform, we optimized the new Windows Live Movie Maker for Windows Vista and Windows 7.”

Nice one – so if you are a PC, then you’ll need to “upgrade” to Microsoft’s new OS in order to enjoy the kind of solution Mac users have held for the last decade.

Sure, Microsoft once offered Windows Movie Maker, but this failed to capture consumers hearts and wasn’t sufficiently slcik for use in the education markets, which turned to the more efficient and reliable iMovie instead. Indeed, development of Windows Movie Maker was abandoned after the release of Windows Vista; its replacement, Windows Live Movie Maker, will be included with Windows Live Essentials.

In fact, iMovie’s been around for such a long time it is easy to forget the words of then interim CEO, Steve Jobs, when iMovie got launched. “The new iMacs with our iMovie software usher in the era of desktop video, allowing mere mortals to easily create professional-quality movies right in their homes or classrooms,” he said. “This is going to be very, very big.”

He was right, desktop video was “big”. And Microsoft has finally gate-crashed the party.

Cnet already says: “Compared to Apple’s polished, elegant, and feature-packed iMovie, Windows Live Movie Maker is a crude imitator.”

Too little, too late? The market will decide.

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