Dell offends Russian Prime Minister Putin

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin started a public war of words with Michael Dell, hitting back at the computing giant's leader after he offered to come to the aid of Russia's IT industry.

The pair shared the stage at the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland. But the mood turned colder than the Swiss Alps when Dell asked the Russian prime minister: "How can we as an IT sector help you broaden the economy as you move out of a crisis and take advantage of that great scientific talent that you have?"

A disgruntled looking Putin paused for thought for a few seconds before replying: "We don't need any help. We are not invalids. We do not have limited capacity. People with limited capacity should be helped. Pensioners should be helped. Developing countries should be helped."

Putin went on to lecture Dell about the harm of "rich nations" simply pumping money into developing nations, before explaining how villages in Siberia are already connected to the Internet. "Every Russian school has computer rooms and internet access," the Russian prime minister insisted.

"It is with great pleasure we will accept, as we have done before, investments into this sector. And we will continue developing our own products and presenting them to the global markets," Putin added.

He then went on to deliver a subtle swipe at Dell's hardware business, highlighting Russia's strength in software development and intellectual property. "Our programmers are one of the best in the world, no doubt about it. And no-one would contest it here. Even our Indian colleagues," he concluded, to much laughter in the audience.

Diligent camerawork prevents us from seeing whether Mr Dell found it funny too.

Barry Collins

Barry Collins is an experienced IT journalist who specialises in Windows, Mac, broadband and more. He's a former editor of PC Pro magazine, and has contributed to many national newspapers, magazines and websites in a career that has spanned over 20 years. You may have seen Barry as a tech pundit on television and radio, including BBC Newsnight, the Chris Evans Show and ITN News at Ten.