Sarathy said he sees large systems integrationists such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. as Suns competitors in RFID. But middleware makers such as OATSystems Inc.—and potentially even Microsoft Corp.—are "coopetitors," he said.
Beyond an expanded program for retail compliance, Sun is using this weeks EPCglobal show to announce its first RFID toolkit, along with an RFID offering for members of its iForce Partners alliance and an RFID warehouse management solution combining offerings from Sun, SSA Global and SIS Technologies.
Sun has been involved with RFID standard setting for four or five years now, Sarathy said in an interview with eWEEK.com from the EPCglobal show in Baltimore. "As a maker of large-scale and secure things [that run on] networks, RFID seemed like a natural for us."
Sun was among the first batch of companies to be invited to join the Auto-ID Center, the predecessor to the EPCglobal industry group, he said. Sun officials served as chairs of at least two Auto-ID committees.
The company has been working with customer Gillette on RFID compliance for more than two years now, in Wal-Mart field tests as well as in other trials. "Eventually, well move on with Gillette to other parts of the value chain, extending RFID to [Gillettes] partners and customers," Sarathy said.
Sun situated its first RFID test center in Dallas to allow easy access for participants in the Wal-Mart trial. The next one will be located in Scotland "because we have a large presence there," he said.
"A number of countries in the Asia Pac [Asia Pacific] have also been asking us for RFID," Sarathy said, adding that Sun is working on RFID implementation with the Taiwanese government.
"Weve also been working with the DOD [U.S. Department of Defense] to understand their requirements for unique identifiers, and to meet their mandate in tagging our products," he said.
But Sun views its role mainly as a provider of hardware and middleware infrastructure, applications and services, he said. "We dont make [RFID] readers, for example. Thats for our partners."
In the RFID world, IBM and HP are Suns competitors, he said. "But were leading both of them," he added, pointing to Suns longstanding RFID middleware product, which is known as Sun Java System RFID Software.
On the other hand, smaller RFID vendors such as OATSystems are "coopetitors" to Sun, according to the Sun executive. "RFID is an industry ripe with coopetitors."
Even Microsoft could be a coopetitor, "if we can figure out a way to run their applications on our software," Sarathy said.