When Apple unveiled macOS Catalina earlier this week, one of the main highlights was Sidecar, a new feature that will, among other things, let you use your iPad as a second display for your Mac, spreading your workflow onto Apple’s tablet as well as enabling Apple Pencil support for drawing and sketching on your Mac. Best of all, Sidecar will “just work” between Catalina and iOS 13 devices, with no additional software or hardware required.
As with many of the new features that Apple bakes into its operating systems, Sidecar isn’t an entirely new idea, and even when it was merely circulating through the rumour mill, it was already being likened to a well-known third-party solution by a company called Luna Display, which has offered the same concept for years.
Luna, however, relies on a hardware dongle that’s plugged into the Mac to communicate with the iPad, effectively making it a more cumbersome solution than what Apple is now going to be offering natively. Despite this, however, the company is not planning to throw in the towel, and will continue working on its technology and looking for ways to distinguish itself from Sidecar.
In a blog post on the company’s website, Luna Display founders Matt Ronge and Giovanni Donelli expressed disappointment that Apple had “sherlocked” their technology — an expression used in the Mac industry to refer to when Apple absorbs the features of a popular third-party app into its own OS, rendering that developer’s work basically obsolete and unnecessary — but made it clear that they’re not going anywhere, and plan to keep building Luna Display into being a “pro” solution.
If you have basic needs, Apple’s Sidecar may do the trick. But if you’re a pro, we’ve built Luna Display to fit around your creative workflow.Luna Display Founders Matt Ronge & Giovanni Donelli
Some of the features that Luna is promising are things that Sidecar will almost certainly not address, such as the ability to use an iPad as a primary display for a Mac mini, or collaborating with multiple users, or expanding to platforms beyond the Mac, such as Windows — where the team indicates that it sees a “bright future” for its solutions. Luna Display will also continue to work on older Macs that aren’t supported by Sidecar, and of course also doesn’t require that users be running macOS Catalina or iOS 13 on their devices.
Despite the frequent allegations of Apple usurping functionality from third-party apps, Ronge & Donelli have hit on perhaps the most important distinction about the way Apple usually does this — providing a basic “one-size-fits-all” solution for most users that still leaves a lot of room for third parties to innovate in different ways. Nobody would seriously suggest that Apple’s Calendar or Mail apps have prevented a wealth of third-party developers from succeeding in these areas, and while Sidecar is a less general solution, there’s no reason why it should be any different. It’s promising to see that not only is Luna Display not giving up in shadow of Sidecar, but will work to build a solution that will cater to those users for whom Sidecar isn’t going to be enough, and if Apple’s typical approach to its built-in features is any indication, there will still be a pretty healthy market for Luna Display to succeed in.