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Open source projects 'need more customer focus'

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Open source projects need to be more customer focussed if they are to succeed in the corporate marketplace, according to several companies attending the Holland Open Software Conference in Amsterdam this week.

Alan Williamson, an open source evangelist at IT services company SpikeSource, said that one reason open source projects fail is that some developers do not think about the features that customers will need. For example, many projects have poor documentation and some even omit relatively basic features such as a tool to uninstall the application, Williamson said.

"One thing we've done at SpikeSource is work on how to uninstall a project. The project leader didn't even think about the need to uninstall it, but the harsh reality is that users do uninstall applications," said Williamson, speaking at a session on how to bring open source to the mainstream on Monday.

Marcel den Hartog, the European director of advanced technology at Computer Associates, agreed that open source project teams are not always aware of what corporate customers want. He told the audience at the conference that support, including support for older versions of the software, is an essential requirement for open source projects that want to succeed in enterprises.

"One of the things I hate about the open source community is that they only talk about two versions — the current version and the future version," said Hartog. "We have clients who will pay us to support really old versions of software — they don't want to change their production environment because it works."

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