This is a very interesting time for IT analyst firms.
With the merger of AMR and Gartner, and their push into more consultative - and even strategic - work, the door is open for the next wave of "independent" analyst companies. Forrester, IDG, Aberdeen all seem to be stuck in that second wave slot where they are somewhere between executive consultants and freelance report writers, basing a lot of revenue flow on paid research and sponsored reports. I would consider both tiers not horribly independent since in some level they are receiving revenue for opinions being purposefully developed (more consultative or prescriptive than independent analysts).
Traditional economic and business forums, such as CFR, The Economist, tier-1 strategy firms, and the large business school outfits (HBR, MIT Sloan, Wharton) are all migrating into the field of IT research and opinion. The field is getting crowded with the other traditional tier-1 and tier-2 analyst and research firm players.
As I see it there is a huge opening for organizations to push ahead with their own, independent platform and mind share. Wellsley Information Services (publishers of SAP Experts and SAP Journal) have created a research arm and are developing several product offerings. Others will follow and I predict that two of the tier-2 research firms will merge to provide real competition to Gartner. It will take a few years to fill the vacuum but independent analyst and research firms will eventually return.
From David Foote: I think you're forgetting that there are some of us who are former analysts from Gartner, Meta Group, Forrester who have started competing analyst firms SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE OF THE LOSS OF INDEPENDENT ANALYSIS AT OUR FORMER EMPLOYERS. I can speak for one of them, Foote Partners, which has been around since 1997 and is rigidly independent, even to the point of not accepting vendor cash for advertising on our web site. We call it like we see it 24/7/365 and publish 140 research reports that are data- driven and updated every 3 mos. We are entirely research based, with 2,100 research partner companies who give us all the insight we need.