RISK-y Business

I bought the board game Risk for my daughters a couple of weeks ago, mostly because I thought it would be (a) wholesome family entertainment (because marching across Asia into Europe is such good clean family fun) and (b) I wanted them to play something a little slower paced than the Gamecube fare.

On the whole, my experiment in world domination went over well. My oldest daughter eventually won, using the classic put-everything-in-Australia-and-south-Asia strategy. I fought a valiant holding action in Alaska, but ultimately she wore me down.

It was my younger daughter that noticed the pattern of this game, that I’d forgotten. For you non-Risk players out there, as you acquire more territories, you obtain campaign cards. Once you get a complete set of cards, you get bonus reinforcements–over and above the reinforcements you get for occupying territories and continents.

The beauty of these bonus reinforcements is that once you turn in a card set, the next player to turn in a set will get more reinforcements.

So, the more you conquer, the larger army you obtain. In other words, Risk is very much a game of momentum. Once you get momentum, you are quickly going to get a lot of power.

Real life is not quite like this. If your army invades another country, your army remains roughly the same size. There are no magical reinforcements appearing out of nowhere. Unless you can conscript many more soldiers from your home nation, or somehow manage to convince the counquered army to fight for you, a conquering nation is eventually going to find itself spread too thin.

I had a notion, though, that adoption of Linux could be more like Risk. Since Linux is software, it’s potential install base is equal to the number of Linux-capable machines out in the world. Which, at last count, was basically all of them. Given time, Linux is an unlimited resource–especially when you consider it’s free.

Which made me think: if such a supposition is true, then if Linux can get enough deployments going, then their overall market share should grow in a very Risk-like manner. Yes, there will be set-backs: skirmishes and holding actions, but as Linux catches on, it will be deployed more often than Windows in the long run.

Without trying, Linux may have just gained another advantage this week. Third-party vendors, increasingly frustrated about being kept out of the Vista code, are calling Microsoft out. Security vendor McAfee, which has long marched in lock-step with Redmond, just took out a full-page ad in the Financial Times that smacked the new Vista around–hard. I was more than a little surprised, since McAfee generates revenue based on the security holes in current versions of Windows.

I would invite them to come work with Linux vendors, since theire code is wide open–but then I remember: we don’t get viruses.

Which feels just as good as rolling into Northern Europe.

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