Last year when Apple announced its Sidecar feature at WWDC for macOS and iPadOS, Astropad found itself Sherlocked and unsure if it would survive. A year later, the company is diversifying its business and things are looking up. Here is a cautionary tale and an inside account on the upside of being Sherlocked as well as Astropad’s thoughts on how Apple could solve its antitrust challenges

Astropad had become one of the most popular options to use iPad as a secondary Mac display with its Luna Display product, then Apple baked in support for the same with macOS and iPadOS last year.

At the one-year anniversary mark, Astropad has detailed the journey of being Sherlocked as a small business, lessons learned, the silver lining of Apple copying their feature, how it saved itself, and some advice for Apple.

For us — a small, nimble startup with tech products for creative pros — getting sherlocked was a truly decisive moment for our company. At first, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to survive it. Over time though, we were able to adjust our product positioning and add new features that set us apart from Apple, buying us time to work on deeper, more fundamental business changes (like bringing our products cross-platform).

Here are Astropad’s big takeaways:

After reflecting on what led us into the trap of being copied by Apple, we walked away with a few profound lessons about growing a business:

  • don’t limit yourself to a single platform (in our case, that meant the App Store);
  • diversify sooner, rather than later (thankfully, we had multiple product lines to fall back on);
  • and go where your customers go (for us, that means developing for Windows).

Changes that Astropad found key to its survival included spending cuts, strategic hiring, financial transparency, and extra care for employees, in addition to diversifying its business strategy.

The advice on not being limited to a single platform is particularly timely with the recent antitrust development: the Apple vs Basecamp/Hey battle. And in fact, Astropad has shared its own 5-step plan for Apple to eliminate its antitrust issues.

Those are:

  • Enable users to set default app preferences
  • Open up alternate payment mechanisms… without the Apple tax
  • Allow sideloading of iOS apps.
  • Give third-party developers equal access to APIs.
  • Stop sherlocking third-party developers.

Time will tell what comes of Apple’s antitrust cases but the tension is certainly building.

In the end, Astropad was able to use the experience of being Sherlocked as the impetus to create a more stable business strategy but there are certainly some important warnings for other developers out there.

We couldn’t see it at the time, but getting sherlocked was a huge force for positive change at Astropad. It was the push we needed to get outside of our comfort zone and finally start developing for Windows. And yes, our sales took a hit. But without that slow-down, we might not have taken the time to smooth out our branding and lay the groundwork for a future suite of Astropad products.

Today, our code is faster, our products are (almost) cross-platform, our branding is stronger, and our team is tighter than ever. No doubt, we’re better off today than we were a year ago. Without Sidecar, we’d probably still be gridlocked within the Apple ecosystem. We’d be chugging along, but we wouldn’t have solved any of the fundamental issues at the core of our business.

It’s these kinds of do-or-die scenarios that create the perfect environment for fresh innovation. With the right mindset, you can look at it as the chance to turn lemons into lemonade!

You can check out the full posts from Astropad on the company’s blog here.

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