Next week, on 18 March, Microsoft will hold a conference-cum-bash in London to celebrate the launch of its Surface product. This is effectively a coffee table that thinks it's a computer with a 30-inch\u00a0display that is sensitive to touch and gestures. I could explain more but you'd be better off taking a look at this video.\n\nIt's an intriguing idea that might find a niche in meeting rooms and the like, offering participants to brainstorm as if playing a digital version of Risk. Or there again, it might just die though lack of interest.\n\nIt's a fact of life in technology that every now and then some genius will come along and say there is something broken in the old quartet of CPU, screen, keyboard and mouse, and that what we really need is a paradigm shift. If you're a sceptic, you might slap this person, but if you're a believer in technology you might give this person a few million pounds and ask to see a proof of concept. However, you will have to be prepared for the possibility of this alternative not being very popular. For every laptop computer, iPod and smartphone there has been a failure, and here are three of the biggest flops.\n\n3. Microsoft's SPOT wristwatch. In 2003, Bill Gates turned over another chapter in his Information At Your Fingertips manual and predicted that wristwatches would be the way forward for updating you on information. The problem was that the screen was too small to view much or input much. With Bill sailing away, Microsoft quietly shut the gate on the project last year.\n\n2. Microsoft's Tablet PC. Gates always had a problem with the keyboard and the Tablet PC was one of many attempts to show that you don't need QWERTY. But prices were always on the high side and usability on the low side, and the same applies today.\n1.Apple MessagePad. This monstrous outsize PDA device based on the Newton software platform had a fat price and awful pen interface and was John Sculley's attempt to write himself into the Apple Hall of Fame. John who?