The multitudes are weighing in on the release of Microsoft Office 2003. The problem is most of those commenting have never seen or used the product, which is just starting to hit retail shelves.
Instapundit via Jay Solo links to the main source of disinformation, this widely linked “review”, from lindows.com. I use the term “review” for lack of a more colorful term, because Michael Robertson doesn’t actually tell you anything about the software itself.
The IRM feature is a tinfoil hat brigade red herring. I suppose these people have never heard of PKI and encryption? They need to come to grips with the fact that while information may yearn to be free, corporations yearn to protect their data. Adobe has integrated document signing into the new version of Acrobat which may force an upgrade to older versions of the reader, do you hear the conspiracy theories on that? Not likely…
I’ve used the suite all through the beta program and can’t even tell you how to turn the IRM features on, they’re pretty well hidden. Plus you have to have the infrastructure (Windows 2003 and Exchange 2003) to support it. Companies that want to implement this feature already have other expensive options for data protection, this is just a cheaper alternative.
The net effect to the end user of Office 2003 or previous versions of the program is that most likely you will never encounter a IRM protected document, just as you rarely encounter a password protected document today. If you do encounter a IRM protected document, it will be because your employer has chosen to protect its internal corporate data by implementing the full Office 2003 solution, in which case it will be transparent to you.
One extra note – since permissions are granted at the application level, Office documents with restricted permission can only be opened by Office 2003 or later. However, the Rights Management Add-in for Internet Explorer allows users without Office 2003 to read content with restricted permission.