Long-term historical analogies are my favourite kind, but it seems that I am using analogies more and more in my business reporting too. As well as comparing airlines to telecoms firms, I have also recently compared mobile-phone handset-makers to carmakers. (The handset industry is usually likened to the PC industry, but this is exactly the fate the handset-makers are doing their best to avoid; carmaking is a more accurate analogy.) Alongside this piece I also argued in a leader that mobile phones are the new cars: they are the dominant technology of self-expression for urban youth. (I use “urban” here in its original sense of “living in cities” rather than its modern sense as a euphemism for “black”; the trend is most visible in Asia.) Previous generations made a statement through their choice of car, customised accordingly; now phones have taken on the same role.
Last November I wrote an article looking at the many similarities between airlines and telecoms firms. Both industries consist of carriers serving routes on a global network. Both were dominated by state-owned monopolies that have now mostly been privatised, but remain sources of national pride. All of which suggests that telecoms, like airlines, ought to be vulnerable to attack by low-cost carriers. This article was read by Stelios Haji-Iaonnou, the serial entrepreneur behind easyJet, a low-cost airline, and he decided this argument made sense. So he is now setting up easyMobile, an idea he freely admits he got from my article.