Microsoft Ships Digital Rights Management For Windows 2003

Microsoft's digital rights management service for Windows Server 2003 has arrived, but version 1.0 is for internal company use only.

November 21, 2003

4 Min Read
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Microsoft's digital rights management service for Windows Server 2003 has arrived, but version 1.0 is for internal company use only. The Windows Rights Management Services, whose price ranges from $29 to $37 per server client access license (CAL), will allow employees to apply rights, privileges and protections to Office 2003 documents distributed within a corporate network, executives said on Monday.

With version 1.0, an author of a Word 2003 document can specify which group of users can open, modify, print and forward an Office 2003 document and under what circumstances it can be used. For instance, authors can designate a sensitive document as read-only or set an expiration date for a time-sensitive or highly confidential document.

The software--whose availability was officially announced on Tuesday--currently works with Microsoft Office 2003, the only rights management service (RMS)-enabled product in the market. The four RMS-enabled applications include Outlook 2003, Word 2003, PowerPoint 2003 and Excel 2003.

However, Microsoft plans to ship an RMS-enabled add-on for Internet Explorer for protected Web page viewing later this year, and the company is in discussions with numerous ISVs that plan to develop RMS-enabled applications, executives said.

The software is targeted at midsize enterprises and vertical segments that require high levels of confidentiality, including finance, legal, government and health-care companies. "I can see this server add on being used more so in an midmarket or enterprise environment than the SMB space," said Frederick Johnson, president of Ross-Tek, a Microsoft solution provider in Cleveland, Ohio. "Hospitals, large law firms or insurance companies could take advantage of this, but I see the biggest obstacle as not the companies making the investment to buy 2003 products, but the learning transition and willingness for their employees to do this rather than their usual way of sending confidential documents. I think this would be the biggest challenge as supposed to the availablity of the technology and its features."Still, channel partners bemoan the lack of cross-enterprise support.

Windows Rights Management Services will allow a one-to-one transaction between two companies that set up a trusted relationship using Active Directory. However, Microsoft executives acknowledged true B2B support isn't coming for several years.

"Version 1.0's focus is on internal information. There's limited B2B functionality, but we're not claiming someone could have trust with thousands of outsourced suppliers," said John Murchinson, product manager of the Security Business Unit at Microsoft, Redmond, Wash. "In version 2.0, in the Longhorn Windows time frame, we're going to enable a more B2B scenario."

Nevertheless, Microsoft expects the add-on--like other server add-ons such as the Live Communications Server and Windows SharePoint Services --to give channel partners ample value-added opportunities including implementing B2B scenarios.

"The technology is about enabling policies to be enforced. We don't claim RMS is an out-of-the-box solution, but it can be used to build end-to-end solutions," said Scott Hanan, lead product manager at the Security Business Unit. "There are a lot of opportunities for hosting solutions and extending the functionality of the server, building new client applications that are rights-enabled and driving upgrades."Systems integration and ISV partners include Avanade, EDS, GigaMedia, Omniva, Reciprocal, SecureAttachment and SyncCast, Microsoft said. EDS, for instance, plans to use the services in-house and deploy them in customer solutions.

One enterprising partner, GigaMedia Access, is capitalizing on the B2B limitations of version 1.0.

To that end, the Baltimore-based partner has launched an Active Directory-based Community Managed Service and servers that enable customers to harness RMS services for cross-enterprise use.

The company's GigaTrust Web server allows customers to rights-enable content for portals and applications, and the forthcoming GigaTrust for the WorkPlace P2P solution will rights-enable files and instant messages. "We make this stuff work intercompany," said Glen Gulyas, president and COO of GigaMedia Access.

The software will be available for licensing in-house and on a monthly subscription basis, he added.Several solution providers said the combination of Microsoft's Windows Rights Management Services and GigaMedia's software provides an end-to-end solution.

"Microsoft is going to offer rights management, but it needs service that sits outside," said Ken Winell, president and CEO of Econium, a Totowa, N.J., solution provider working with RMS. "GigaMedia's trusted community will allow customers to exchange RMS-enabled documents outside the enterprise. It's a way to implement DRM across corporations."

Another solution provider lauded the combination.

"It's a good solution to this limitation," said Frank Bell, CEO of Intellinet, a Microsoft solution provider in Atlanta. "The GigaTrust managed solution extends Microsoft's rights management solution so companies from small businesses to enterprise teams can secure communications beyond their private network boundaries."

In related news, Microsoft said it is teaming up with Rainbow Technologies to develop a hardware appliance that enables customers to manage Windows rights management services without internet connectivity.

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