Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told a cute joke about what it's really like to work with Bill Gates

satya nadella bill gates microsoftBill Gates (left) and Microsoft CEO Satya NadellaMicrosoft

  • What's it's like to work with Bill Gates?
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who's worked for him at Microsoft for decades, told a funny story on Wednesday that gives a hint.
  • Nadella received an email from Bill Gates over the weekend about a big new Microsoft database initiative, right after Gates had taken a meeting with the team creating it.
  • When it comes to weekend emails from Gates, Nadella said his instinct is always to ask himself if he wants to open it right away, or put it off until the workweek.
  • But he held his breath and opened it and was shocked to see the first word. It said: "Wow."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took the stage Wednesday morning in Las Vegas to usher in thousands of Microsoft's business partners at its huge annual partner conference.

And in the middle of his keynote, he couldn't resist telling a quick joke about what it's like to work with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who still works with Nadella as both a member of the board and a technical advisor.

The story came right after Nadella and his team proudly showed off the company's new "hyperscale database" to the crowd.

That's Microsoft's latest entry in the lucrative and ultra competitive cloud database field. It's a database that can grow to virtually limitless size, but that can still work with all the existing Microsoft SQL Server applications built for previous versions. The product was first announced in September, but this was the first opportunity for Microsoft to show it off to the thousands of partners who will sell, support and write custom applications for it.

After the demo, conducted by Rohan Kumar, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Azure Data, Nadella bounded back on stage smiling and told the story.

"I must say this limitless, transparent scale out [cloud database] has been a dream for a long time," Nadella said. Indeed, this cloud database reportedly took seven years to create.

"And Bill Gates recently met with the team that was building all of this and he sent an email," Nadella said. "And usually when you get a weekend email from Bill, you kind of wait and see. Do I really want to open it now? I've been working with Bill for a long time."

But he took the plunge and opened it.

"It started by saying, 'Wow.' I had never seen those words from him, never heard those words. He was really thrilled to see us make progress," Nadella said.

"Of course he had a long list of things we needed to be working on as well," he joked.

And the crowd laughed.

That's because Gates has a well-earned reputation for his email rants, especially when he's upset about the development of some product or another.

Back in 2008, journalist Todd Bishop published the full text of one of those famous rants.

Read: Microsoft chairman John Thompson explains why CEO Satya Nadella is poised to win the cloud wars

The email was from 2003, when Gates was still working full-time at the company. Gates was ticked off because he had tried to download a Microsoft app, Moviemaker, from the Microsoft website but discovered "This site is so slow it is unusable," Gates railed.

After many minutes of attempting to use the site, a page finally loaded. "I thought for sure now I would see a button to just go do the download. In fact it is more like a puzzle that you get to solve. It told me to go to Windows Update and do a bunch of incantations," Gates wrote.

The email went on like that for many word, with that exact tone, for a while.

In 2008, Bishop asked him about this email, and Gates smiled: "There's not a day that I don't send a piece of e-mail … like that piece of e-mail. That's my job."

So you can imagine why Nadella was wondering if he should spoil his weekend by opening that email immediately.

And how shocked he was to see the praise, but also how not shocked was to see " the long list of things we needed to be working on as well."

Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.

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