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Dev hell in a blue dress

The retina display is great, but that's the only new feature. And let me tell you, it's a feature that is turning out to be a nightmare for developers, much more so than when retina displays were introduced with the iPhone 4.

I declare self-interest here: I do a lot of production work on tablet-based magazines and books. The problem is that vast quantities of iPad content is rasterised and paged rather than the kind of C and HTML-component content that dominates the iTunes App Store. On the iPad, it's all pinch-and-zoom photos, HD videos, melting slideshows, 3D retail spinners and animations.

Overnight, my 1024 x 768 app graphics became obsolete with the iPad 3's 2048 x 1536 screen. A full-screen picture page at native resolution on the iPad 1 and 2 might be around 1.5MB but now ends up having to be around 6MB natively on the iPad 3. Everything, from book to games, is going to balloon in size. I suspect your future copies of Wired magazine are going to become epic multi-gig downloads.

Wierd is now too big

Will tomorrow's iMags fit?

Perhaps now you can see why Apple's decision to keep iPad 3 prices at previous iPad 2 levels at their same memory capacities is looking like a very poor deal after all. The iPad 3 effectively offers you less storage because iPad 3-optimised content is going to take up so much more of it.

"So don't develop your books and magazines for iPad 3," I hear you holler. "Surely your existing iPad 2 content still runs on the iPad 3."

Yes it does and it looks pants. Unless text is rendered as HTML, the iPad 3 makes a pig's testicle of up-sampling rasterised typography. It would be bad enough if text looked fuzzy but it looks jagged.

In other words, the super-duper new retina screen makes my existing content look worse than it does on an original iPad. Brilliant, that's 18 months of my work sitting on the App Store that I'm going to have to hide from prospective clients until I can make hi-res versions at my own expense and give them away free to existing purchasers.

"Hang on," I hear you say. "You're an iPad developer whinging about a gorgeous screen that users adore just because it's difficult to develop for."

Apple New iPad 3 tablet

Shiny... but sucky

That's right. Developers are important, as I believe even Microsoft's chimp-in-chief Steve Ballmer once confided to chosen employees in the candid privacy of his own stadium.

Developers are especially important to the iPad because the iOS App Store lies the heart of the whole iPad experience and its commercial success. Just as I once bought a Nintendo 64 simply to play 1080 Snowboarding, people have been known to buy an iPad purely for GarageBand. People do not part with 400 quid plus for an email-checking device that shows you the weather.

So what we've got in the iPad 3 is a product that is fatter and heavier, offers less battery life between recharges, risks running out of storage space four times more quickly, and makes some of your existing apps look worse. Bargain!

Nice screen, though. Want to bet I'll buy one before the summer? ®

Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. Like many of his generation – Alistair is a 1960s child – his love for hand-held devices was inspired by Star Trek communicators and those seemingly impossible flat TVs in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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