A predilection for prediction

Predictions for the Next Big Thing are a dime a dozen in the world of tech. But many products just don't live up to the hype.

commentary "Technology sure does move fast, eh? What'll they think of next, I wonder?"

If you haven't been subjected to such awe-struck sentiments upon the unveiling of your latest tech purchase, you are surely in a very teeny minority. With faster, smaller, slicker products being hurled onto the market at a feverishly frequent rate, tech pundits are keen to prove their street cred by predicting the Next Big Things.

Sometimes these self-styled prognosticators are on the money, and the hype is justified with impressive worldwide sales and a cultural shift to accommodate the new technology (Exhibit A: that little white mp3 player from the fruit company).

Some predictions however suggest that the crystal balls used require an urgent recalibration. The idea that people would ride segways to their paperless offices every morning is about as realistic a concept as the future the Jetsons inhabited.

As we noted last year, Tablet PCs have struggled to catch on, and looked like being swept into a dustpan by Rosie the Robot and consigned to the world of failed tech products. Initial slate models failed to appeal due to hefty price tags and short battery life, and the supposedly revolutionary "digital ink" concept hasn't been met with the anticipated level of rapture.

The new breed of convertibles, which are essentially notebooks with pen-sensitive screens that can be used in tablet form, may be able to bring greater success to the tablet tilt. While still almost double the price of a similarly spec'd laptop, these models offer the convenience of a PDA with the performance grunt of a PC.

This week, we review five convertible Tablet PCs. Take a look and see if you think they're still a hard pill to swallow.

What are the best and worst tech predictions you have made or heard? Did you foresee the rise of eBay in those early days, or did you state the tech equivalent to "by 1990, no child will be living in poverty"? Boast or confess in our talkback section below.