This past April, In The Office listed items that shoppers wished they'd acquired at the time they purchased their computers. (See "PC Buyers' Lament," [Article link]) One extra they regretted not getting: an indication that the seller was fiscally troubled. Now it's available -- for an extra $495. That's the annual cost of "The Gartner Letter," a new microcomputer-industry review published by Gartner Group, a Stamford, Conn., market-research firm. The monthly publication's "Problem Watch" pages track hardware vendors whose financial setbacks may lead to deteriorating performance.

Just before Dell Computer posted a substantial second-quarter loss this past August, for example, Gartner consigned it to its "Problem Watch" pool. Also cited as shaky were IBM and Olivetti. If you think it's silly to fret about such big names, remember, Wang and Prime once were superstars.

For information, call 800-272-6395.

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