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Steve Jobs and Bill Gates battle in new National Geographic series

The TV channel is launching a show called "American Genius" that's about bitter rivalries, including the Wright Brothers vs. Curtiss, Colt vs. Wesson and Oppenheimer vs. Heisenberg.

For almost as long as there's been a personal-computing industry, there's been an epic clash between Apple and Microsoft. The company's leaders were no strangers to throwing barbs at the other side. But in May 2007, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates got together for a rare--and amicable--joint appearance at the D5 technology conference. Dan Farber/ZDNet

Some of the world's greatest stories are about rivalries -- and this is what the National Geographic Channel is banking on with its new television show titled "American Genius."

The TV channel is launching a series about some of the most celebrated thinkers and their adversaries, including the Wright brothers vs. Curtiss, Colt vs. Wesson and Oppenheimer vs. Heisenberg. But it's kicking off the series with the infamous competition between Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and their rise to the top of the computer world.

"The digital age was not born peacefully," a teaser to the Jobs vs. Gates show says. "It emerged from a bitter rivalry between two of the most influential minds the world has ever known."

Since Jobs passed away from pancreatic cancer in October 2011, dozens of books, TV shows and movies have been created that document the Apple co-founder and his life. National Geographic's show is the latest to look at how Jobs and others in his field revolutionized the world with personal computers.

The Jobs vs. Gates rivalry goes back to the late 1960s and early 1970s when the modern computer was just getting its start. "American Genius" features reenactments of the two young men dropping out of college on their dueling quests to invent personal computers and software. Jobs is portrayed as a dreamy hippie turned hard-nosed businessman, while Gates is shown as a driven programming nerd. The show follows their pursuit up through the 1980s.

"American Genius" has several interviews with businesspeople, experts in the field and people who knew Jobs and Gates at the time, including Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, politician and businessman Mitt Romney and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

"I wasn't into all of the politics and the way business people think," said Wozniak during a Tuesday conference call for members of the press. "And Steve was."

Wozniak said the main difference between Jobs and Gates was the way they envisioned products. Jobs had a futuristic outlook, while Gates focused on execution.

"A lot of the world gets built up by others when you're in this superstar-like category," Wozniak said. "They were two great companies and it was a new business that was evolving."

"American Genius" is an eight-part series that studies all sorts of visionaries who helped change the world. Besides exploring the beginning of the computer revolution, the show also looks at the battle to get airplanes in the sky with the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss; the competition for the perfect revolver between Samuel Colt and Daniel Wesson; the atomic arms race between Werner Heisenberg and Robert Oppenheimer; and more.

"American Genius" premiers with the Jobs vs. Gates episode on June 1 on the National Geographic Channel. Here's a clip of the episode.