Microsoft is introducing technology which can restrict access to data in Windows applications, giving companies greater control over sensitive information.
Developers will be able to build the Windows Rights Management Services (RMS) technology into desktop applications, which will allow users to designate who can have access to content.
Analysts have indicated that it will be widely adopted once it becomes available.
RMS will only be available in Office 2003 initially, but the company plans to extend it to wider content and applications in the future.
The move builds on Microsoft's existing user list permission-based access control by issuing a licence that has to be authorised by the server before the user is allowed to do anything with a document.
It could be used, for example, to restrict the forwarding, copying or printing of sensitive documents such as financial reports, and can include time-sensitive expiration controls.
Centrally controlled templates will also simplify policy management.
Graham Titterington, senior analyst at Ovum, told vnunet.com that the development is a clear indication of Microsoft's intention to boost its digital rights management capability.
"Microsoft sees the digital rights management area as one for long-term opportunity and growth," he said.
"This is building on the traditional file access provision but making it a much richer set of permissions and extending it to entities such as email messages."
And while users are not crying out for security controls like this, Titterington believes they will be widely adopted and used once they become available.
Mike Nash, corporate vice president at Microsoft's Security Business Unit, claimed that the tools will give organisations greater control of their most valuable asset.
"What's really compelling about rights management technology is that it enables businesses to protect the information they most worry might leak - either deliberately or inadvertently - by putting persistent protections in the documents themselves," he said in a statement.
The beta code for Windows RMS is due to be released in the second quarter of 2003, and two software development kits will be shipped to allow developers to build rights management features into applications.
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