NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- There is a misperception at the heart of the open source vs. closed source debate, which is that closed source is really closed.It's not. Your license says you can't see it. The vendor won't show it to you. Good people are not supposed to look. But bad people look all the time. Microsoft malware exists because bad people look, and find bits of the code they can exploit. It's a continuous game of cops and robbers, with security professionals trying to protect every window and bad guys knowing they only need to unlock one.
The broader the base of code users, the more important this becomes. Innovating on top of most open source code is legal, with licenses like Eclipse and Apache actually encouraging it. But that innovation is on top of secure code. The innovation is only a small part of the whole, and the creator of that innovation can put all their energy into protecting that small portion, knowing the foundation is secure.The closing argument of closed source advocates is money. Look at all the money Oracle ( ORCL) and Microsoft ( MSFT) make, they say. Because they sell a whole stack of software they bring in the cash they need to buy everyone else, even the open source companies. Well, look at IBM ( IBM). They moved to open source Linux for their base nearly two decades ago. And over the last five years which of the three -- Oracle, Microsoft, or IBM -- has done better for shareholders? Answer: IBM. It's not close. The lesson seems clear to me. The wider your software's user base, the deeper the code base is, the bigger the advantage an open source approach has.