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Microsoft Unveils Rights Management Client

Microsoft Tuesday unveiled the first component of the Windows Rights Management Services (RMS) strategy it detailed in February, designed to help enterprises better control who has access to which documents, and when.

RMS is a new ASP.NET service, built on the Microsoft .NET Framework, for Windows Server 2003 Standard, Enterprise, Web and Datacenter editions. It is designed to work with applications to provide policy rights for Web content and sensitive corporate reports.

With Windows RMS, users can control the forwarding, copying and printing of documents, as well as expiration rules for portals, word processing or email documents. The rules can be crafted so that users can designate who can access specific content and what kinds of access rights they have.

Rights and policy are managed by the RMS server component (code-name Tungsten), while clients run a client component that allows users to apply rights with a mouse click.

That client component, the Microsoft Windows Rights Management Client 1.0, is what Microsoft posted for free download Tuesday.

Both the server component and an RMS add-on for Internet Explorer (intended for users that don't have a full RMS client), are expected to debut later this year.

The client software released Tuesday will be required for each user who will be creating or viewing rights-protected content, Microsoft said, and is available to all licensees of Microsoft Windows 98, second edition, and later. Further, to run an RMS shop, enterprises need Windows Server Active Directory and a SQL Server database (to store configuration data) on the server side, and RMS-enabled applications on the client side.

Office 2003, slated to ship in October, will be the first RMS-enabled application available from Microsoft. The software giant said Office 2003 Professional Edition will be required for creating rights-protected Office documents, spreadsheets, presentations and email messages. Office 2003 Standard Edition will allow users to view rights-protected content, but not to create it.

As far as licensing goes, Microsoft said organizations seeking to implement RMS will need a Windows Server 2003 Server License, Windows Server 2003 Client Access Licenses (CALs), and Windows Rights Management Services CALs. RMS CALs -- which can either be applied to a user or a device -- go for an estimated price of $37 each, or about $185 for five CALs.

Microsoft is also offering an RMS External Connector (EC) license, which will allow organizations to permit an unlimited number of external users to access a single licensed copy of RMS server software without requiring an additional CAL for each. The RMS EC license is intended to give organizations the ability to allow customers or business partners to access rights-protected information. The RMS EC license goes for an estimated $18,066. Because users accessing RMS through an external connector license must also be licensed to access Windows Server 2003, Microsoft noted that the Windows Server EC license would also be required.