Astropad is Coming to Windows

Posted on October 12, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Dev, Hardware, Mobile, iOS, Mac and macOS, iPadOS with 36 Comments

After being Sherlocked by Apple in macOS Catalina, Astropad is bringing its iPad as a second screen solution to Windows.

“In June 2019, Apple announced a new feature in macOS Catalina called Sidecar that closely copied our product lines,” Astropad’s Savannah Reising explained in a recent blog post. “For our team of just 13 people, it was devastating news. Watching Apple present Sidecar to the world was like seeing years of hard work flash before your eyes while someone else takes credit for it.”

For those unfamiliar with the term “Sherlocked,” Apple has a rich history of stealing ideas from products made by third-party developers and then incorporating them for free into its own platforms. It’s called “Sherlocked” because of one of the more infamous examples of this theft, when Apple stole the functionality from a product called Karelia Watson and incorporated it into Mac OS X as Sherlock.

Apple seems to Sherlock at least one product with each platform release. And it appears that it was Astropad’s turn this year with macOS Catalina.

The problem for Astropad, of course, is that its products are macOS native. So it is now moving its codebase—over 40,000 lines of Objective-C and C++ code—to Rust, which is cross-platform and will allow the firm to bring its products to Windows and even other platforms.

“With Rust, we’ll have a high-performance and portable platform that we can easily run on Mac, iOS, Linux, Android, and Windows,” Astropad’s Matt Ronge writes. “Not only will this drastically expand our potential market size, but we also see many interesting new uses for our Liquid technology that we’ll be able to pursue with our Rust based platform. We’re confident that we’ll finish our Rust journey with stronger code, better products, and an optimistic outlook for Astropad’s future.”

So Astropad’s bad news from Apple may be good news to creatives who have chosen Windows over the Mac. You can learn more about Astropad and the Liquid technology those products use from the Astropad website. They even have a nice comparison with Sidecar that’s worth checking out.

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Comments (36)

36 responses to “Astropad is Coming to Windows”

  1. christian.hvid

    "Apple has a rich history of stealing ideas from products made by third-party developers and then incorporating them for free into its own platforms."

    Reminds me of another company, but I can't remember its name right now.

  2. codymesh

    So they could make it cross-platform all this while, but they chose not to....until Apple dealt them a fatal blow? Seems like a classic case of shooting yourself in the foot by limiting your own market

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to codymesh:

      Not exactly. They did go iOS first, but the whole Objective-C codebase thing made cross-platform impossible. Apple pushed them over the edge to do the unthinkable: Rewrite a massive codebase. Few companies ever do that.

      • MikeGalos

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        They also could have, and perhaps did for all I know, code in a cross-platform toolkit where possible. If they chose Apple only tools on an Apple only language on Apple only platforms, which seems the likely case, that is a choice they made that paid off with them losing their only product's market.

  3. John Craig

    Welcome to Windows. You'll be much happier here

  4. jtdennis

    There's another app called Duet that does similar stuff too. I'm not sure how it compares to Astropad, but Duet has worked on Windows for years. I use it every so often when I'm working on my laptop in a coffee shop and need some more screen space.

  5. ivan19998

    So it's like small local store owner finds one day a large shopping mall is opening across the street. Sometimes it just happens. I tried both Astropad and Sidecar. And while Astropad is great in general, it still has some lag and not that smooth as Sidecar. But I'll probably keep using it as it allows to draw on portion of screen which is helpful because I have iMac 5k as a main computer.

    Another point is that Windows users asked Astropad devs for Windows support for years. And devs told them such thing is not possible in near future. So now suddenly it is possible.

    Also I don't like the approach Astropad team took with their product. Initially it was expensive but buy-it-once app. Couple years later they added subscription-based app with much more superior features set and even removed some features from the old app. I believe it's just sort of Karma strike they have now.

  6. Andi

    Devs like these are of the smug type that deliberately ignore Windows/Android. According to them all the "creatives" are on the mac side and all the dirty peasants are on the WIndows side. Simply put Apple evangelists. Now that they got sherlocked they remembered about the poor Windows folk and now are bringing their product over. Otherwise they wouldn't give a proverbial rat's arse. Let's all hope they fail hard.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to Andi:

      Or maybe they just don't have the resources to have in on Windows. Just because you can write an mac app doesn't automatically mean you can write a Windows app.

    • jbinaz

      In reply to Andi:

      Sure, they're smug. But wishing for them to fail? There are 13 people who would be out of work. May not matter to you, but I'm sure it does to them.

    • PhilipVasta

      In reply to Andi:

      Yep. I'm the creative industry (music) and I see this all the time. Right now I'm getting all sorts of emails regarding application compatibility with macOS Catalina. No such emails are ever sent regarding Windows 10 updates. 

      I also see this with Serif's Affinity apps. For example, they're constantly promoting their iPad app, yet they ignore adding a touch-friendly interface for tablet PCs like the Surface. Another example: With their latest update, they added GPU acceleration for Apple computers. PC support? Coming some time in the future. This update was probably a year in beta testing in the first place, so I don't have high hopes for PC support coming any time soon. 

      I understand that, to some degree, this is simply knowing your audience and catering to them. On the other hand, as an end user of the Windows, I'm acutely aware of the special treatment that Apple's platforms get from developers. So yes, with regard to Astropad, it's hard to feel sorry for them. While it's great that they're opening up to Android and Windows, it's only because they have to.

      • wp7mango

        In reply to PhilipVasta:

        The problem with companies taking this approach is that by the time the app has been developed, a lot of time has passed and the world is different.

        The fact is, Microsoft is no longer the same company that it was under Balmer and Gates. So, if a developer has chosen not to support Windows based on some outdated prejudice, they will get badly burned when their preferred "Apple gods" crap all over them.

        Apple is still largely where it is due to the iPhone and brand perception, rather than relative quality, innovation, or principles. The reality distortion field seems to envelop developers as well as consumers, and I don't think that is sustainable in the long term.

      • Andi

        In reply to PhilipVasta:

        Exceptionally well put Philip. If you read the blog post linked by this article you'd see how Apple grooms devs like these. They invite them over to the HQ, they buy their solutions and ask them for a demo. No wonder these devs remain faithful.

        Reminds me of a lawsuit pending in Japan. One Apple supplier claims Apple asked him to explain his product in a more detailed fashion; he obliged, only to find out later that Apple replaced him with another supplier from China. Allegedly Apple doesn't do IP infringement, they get others to do it.

    • digiguy

      In reply to Andi:

      While I don't wish them to fail, I definitely don't feel sorry. Too many devs in the creative fields have snobbed windows. This will help waking them up.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Andi:


      I don't know these people. I do know that targeting creatives on Apple platforms with a creative product did makes tons of sense a few years ago and probably makes sense now too.

      But whatever. They've obviously had their eyes opened by Apple's behavior.

      • solomonrex

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        It's not like MS doesn't do this. Defender, Xbox, Office obvs, but regardless of the reason, this is esp good news because Windows is usable with touch. This is far more useful to me than their Mac product.

        And I can imagine MS extending their xbox streaming app to do similar things on multiple platforms.

  7. sonichedgehog360

    I hope the devs are reading these comments. Please give us a feature in Astropad where we can link a Surface or pen-enabled Windows device as a drawing pad to another Windows desktop machine.

  8. Ron Diaz

    "Apple has a rich history of stealing ideas from products made by third-party developers and then incorporating them for free into its own platforms."

    I’m not sure if this is actually a joke statement or not. You are actually writing this on a Microsoft focused site?

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Hypnotoad:

      Let's see. Yes. I am actually writing this. On whatever site. Because it's a fact.

      • nbplopes

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        It is true indeed in one perspective at least. Yet it is charged with a negative and lecturing tone that ...

        Let me try and do the same. You may as well know that Microsoft empire, from Office to SQL Server and Dynamics was built in such a premise. Chinese style, yes Chinese style. Not only that, but ferousiously pursued their businesses, the third party innovators businesses. Did so, in a unprecedented scale. Do you see, or ever seen Apple doing this is such a scale? If you are honest, then answer is for sure "No". In that regard it does not even come close to the approach of MS which basically was studying whatever features other had, replicate, even the mistakes and improve.

        That is also a fact. why not write a featured article about it? Trying to lecture Mac users is kind of a joke considering. But I guess that was not the objective, but a way to grace Windows zealots.

        I use both platforms by the way. Not to know what one does to then suggest ideas to the other, you know like you do, but todo actual work, taking the best of both without any prejudice. Taking the best of both and leaving out the rest of it from my workflow.

        On the topic. I must say that I believe that was not the core intent, taking this small company business, I mean. If you put this within the scope of what they have been doing with Continuity, for sure the correct reason is revealed.

        Having said this, I must say as a macOS user that I find the way they went about it. bit lame. Instead they should have studied the way iPads paired with the Mac are actually useful and offer an API like they did with Handoff. Imagine that macOS developers could actually use the iPad display as a Sidecar for their apps with more control. I mean, say Photoshop kind of apps, with a click of a button a Sidecar display would come up at the developers discretion focused on the workflow at hand (say projecting a dual of the image being presented for touch / pen kind of interaction along with an UI tailored). Or say a Powerpoint presentation would use Sidecar to present notes and control the flow. Why not use iPhones for that matter? Say word processor for proof reading and marking on a second display. Or say to collect a handmade signature ... Or safari to display the favorites on the touch panel. All without the need to install a specialised app on the iPad. In this way, the iPad would not be just a second monitor, but an actual tool tailored for each app in the macOS. That for me would be an actually Sidecar concept!!!!

        This is the kind of stuff that I would expect from a Side car. Not simply a well .. a second monitor!The impression I get more and more is the design instincts of SJ are missed. I suspect he would see this in this way. Instead we got an external monitor with nothing streamlined.



        • wright_is

          In reply to nbplopes:

          Paul has never denied this, in fact, he has a long series of articles covering exactly how Microsoft dominated the industry and bullied and stole from other software companies.

          Just because Microsoft did that doesn't mean you can't report it when Apple does the same (as it also often does, and hence the term Sherlocked for when Apple does it).

          • nbplopes

            In reply to wright_is:

            I know. I guess that Paul being veteran tech journalist I was expecting a more thoughtful review of this event. Unfortunately, that kind of journalism is almost dead as Journalists spend their time on twitter ... this leads to look alike blog posts with the same information over and over.

            On this.. Let's be honest, using the iPad as second monitor is not properly a far sighted original idea. Variations of this can be found already baked before Sidecar appeared. For instance, you know that one could already add second displays in macOS through Airplay provided that the display was somehow equipped with Airplay, say with an attached Apple TV. You can also add a second display to the iPad using Airplay, using either projection by mirroring or by feature. The interesting bit in the second in the case of the iPad is that developer could code what was being project in the second display ... limited to video ... while maintaining the controls on the iPad screen. This was working before Astropad came to market.

            Startups often use feature gaps to bring products to market. But there are gaps with higher risk of being swallowed than others. The moment I saw Astropad I thought that they were right in the path off the evolution of the above. Meaning, sooner or later this this stuff would be baked in. Meaning the risk fot the idea being swallowed was very high. Startups, even in such situation sometimes pursue to filling the gap with the hopes of being bought by the "mothership" when the time comes . An exit strategy that sometimes works, sometimes not. Indeed, I believe that this was the Plan A in the business strategy of Astropad founders considering that they did not pursue to bring this feature to Windows and decided to be a macOs only solution before ... Plan B,.

            Ideas, many can have, but only a few have the skills to implement the,. Astropad equipped with a team that include former Apple engineers as co-founders. did it. Yet I think that Plan A was always a extremely risky one considering the above. Plan B should have been the one from the start, even considering the number of potential users. There are a lot more Windows users/designers with iPads than macOS users for sure, at least the macOS vs Windows marketshare suggests it. Going multi-platform for apps and digital services is the thing. The only companies that can afford not to have this for plan A are Apple and Microsoft. Yet even the former decided to go multi-platform a long time ago ... for multiple reasons.

            Astropad situation reminds me another company, Culturecode. Culturecode develops task manager / GTD style, called Things, released in 2007 only for the Mac. This app is very popular amongst macOS and iOS users with a long history in the Apple ecosystem. They also decided to be a macOS / iOS only solution from the start. Such kind of app would not have survived in the Windows ecosystem at all. The reason why goes right into the core of how Apple and Microsoft approach the market. Only now, the Reminders app in iOS and macOS comes close its functionality, 12 years after. The reasons behind this are the same why Apple Mail lacks a lot of feature found in third party apps. It was an interesting 12 years ride for Things, but such a simple app for sure the evolution of Reminder was not unexpected. Things is in a worst situation now. You see, inspire of being very well designed has an extremely simple feature set ... it evolved very little ... and never went multi-platform even when everyone was going that way in the task-management genre, so if they do now, they will face stiff competition in that space, not to mention Microsoft.

            As you can see, the history of Apple product design is not IMHO about making a business over replicating features of third party developers, never was. Trying to paint that way is for me nonsensical. This is totally unlike what MS has done in the past, especially in the first decade.

            The idea that macOS / iOS aficionados think that that Apple never copies or replicates ... if that was the case how could that community even have a term for it ... "Sherlocked". The sad thing is that the Windows community does not have a term for it, say "Windozed". It all became such a common practice, part of the economy of the OS... why even bother caminho up with a word., right? I think that is partially why, very few innovative devs were enthusiastic about the Windows Store.

            "Just because Microsoft did that doesn't mean you can't report it when Apple does the same (as it also often does, and hence the term Sherlocked for when Apple does it)."

            Yes it does not. Yet as you can see, I don't think it's exactly the same. Meaning, "Oh that its an interesting product that makes sense in our businesses strategy and vision for all things in us ... lets do it ourselves ...". I believe the thing was in the evolution path since inception, and choosing to go Plan A, and not ... Plan B ... was an error of Astropad. We would probably not be having this discussion at all if the too was multi-platform since inception. Or you are going to say that if and when Apple produces a remote macOS desktop is that also "Sherlocking" all VNC/RDP apps in the platforms? Sherlocking the Sherlocks maybe ... it does not make sense.

            Anyway, as I said, I find Apple approach to Sidecar, lame considering what they can do. They have the materials (direct iOS and macOS code access) and the engineering team to take it far beyond Astropad could. They simply allowed the iPad to work as a second monitor ... mostly. In comparison with what they could have actually done.

      • pecosbob04

        In reply to paul-thurrott: And very similar to the FACT that msft would announce vaporware products whose soul purpose was to ""FREEZE" the market until they could figure out how to gear up to produce a weak copy of a competitors product, keeping both consumers and developers waiting for the OMC (Official Msft Clone). But for sure nsft never Sherlocked anyone. "Good artists borrowgreat artists steal' Picasso Among others

        • dontbeevil

          In reply to pecosbob04:

          "good artists copy, great artist steal" steve jo... ehm Pablo Picasso

        • MikeGalos

          In reply to pecosbob04:

           "Good artists borrowgreat artists steal' Picasso Among others

          It's worth noting that the "others" included, quite publicly, Steve Jobs who set that as the tone for Apple "innovation".

          Thanks for the reminder.

          • pecosbob04

            In reply to MikeGalos:You're welcome Mikey.
            I was sure you as well as 99% of the rest of the peeps on this forum would realize the Jobs' usage of the quote. Picasso maybe not so much. My first thought was to attribute it to Jobs as quoted by Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin as would be appropriate on my favorite non-tech forum but here not so much.
            Anyhoo glad Paul made an Apple post so your continued existence could be happily confirmed.

    • Daekar

      In reply to Hypnotoad:

      Not a joke, but just because Microsoft did it doesn't mean Apple doesn't.

    • codymesh

      In reply to Hypnotoad:

      Um. Are you a zoomer? "Sherlocked" is pretty old term. It was coined by Mac fans to describe when Apple steals an idea from third-party software.

      "The phenomena of Apple releasing a feature that supplants or obviates third-party software is so well known that being Sherlocked has become an accepted term used within the Mac and iOS developer community"

    • dontbeevil

      In reply to Hypnotoad:

      LOL apple fans that believes apple didn't steal any of their "revolutionary" things, while they stole most of them, are so cute.

  9. ivan19998

    Also I don't get it. There were hundreds of virutal desktop apps for Windows. And when virtual desktops came to Windows natively, I don't remember anyone had any complains. Not to mention Mac and Linux had such feature for at least decade.

    It just the matter of occasion that Astropad had no competition in that area. It's always painful to lose monopoly. But everyone agree monopoly is a bad thing for customers.