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Start-up breaks Net research mold with free services

A new research start-up, called Technology Evaluation Center, challenges the pricing structure of leading groups such as Gartner Group, Forrester Research and Meta Group by offering similar research services for free online.

A group of former Gartner Group executives have launched a research site that offers something for nothing.

The new research start-up, called Technology Evaluation Center (TEC), aims to challenge the pricing structure of leading groups such as Gartner Group, Forrester Research and Meta Group by offering similar research services for free online.

Chief executive David Wright said the site, Technologyevaluation.com, will allow information technology professionals to search for the latest research reports, as well as gather information or advice to help solve their technology questions. What differentiates the site from services offered by other firms is simply that it's free.

"We wanted to create a business to provide a traditional style of research coverage on products, on trends, on vendors, but we wanted to do it for free," Wright told CNET News.com.

"Traditional IT market firms have locked up this type of information behind golden gates and are [only] giving it out to a privileged few."

The company plans to collect revenue from professional services or so-called offline offerings--technology evaluation services and strategic planning, Wright said.

The bulk of TEC's senior management team has ties to Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Group, where each spent several years as industry analysts. Prior to founding TEC, Wright served as a senior vice president at Gartner and played a vital role in managing product and employee development.

The site, launched today, will focus on various technology markets and supporting technologies, including business-to-business applications, hardware and operating systems, enterprise security, groupware and messaging, and business intelligence tools.

The Web site is just one element of TEC's business model. The firm also plans to offer professional services to assist companies through strategic planning and selecting and implementing various technologies and applications.

Wright said TEC should act as a wake-up call to the marketplace as more and more clients and customers question why they have to pay hefty prices for research information.

Despite this, Adams, Harkness & Hill analyst Sandra Notardonato said TEC's offerings probably won't have much impact on the pricing and subscription rates most of the larger firms currently charge their clients.

"I think that clients are going to like this particular strategy…It's easy to get people attracted to something for free, but retaining them is somehow difficult," said Notardonato. This, she added, will be the company's biggest challenge.

TEC's clients currently include CBS and other Fortune 1000 companies.

With about 50 employees and more than $3 million in venture funding, Wright said he hopes to expand the company's product coverage areas and may consider a public offering of stock next year.