Microsoft releases quantum computing development kit preview

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At the Microsoft Ignite Conference in September, Microsoft let it be known it was going to be a player in the future of quantum computing, and today the company took another step toward that goal when it released a preview of its quantum computing development kit.

The kit includes all of the pieces a developer needs to get started including a Q# language and compiler, a Q# library, a local quantum computing simulator, a quantum trace simulator and a Visual Studio extension.

This is a preview, so it’s aimed at early adopters who want to understand what it takes to develop programs for quantum computers, which operate very differently from classical ones. Put in simple terms, with a classical computer, a bit can only exist in a binary state of on or off,  whereas with quantum programs a qubit (the quantum equivalent of a bit) can exist in multiple states at the same time. This could open the door to programs that simply couldn’t have existed before.

This is but one piece in Microsoft’s big vision for quantum computing that it discussed at Ignite. Microsoft’s Krysta Svore told TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois in September that the idea was to offer a comprehensive full-stack solution for controlling the quantum computer and writing applications for it.

“We like to talk about co-development,” she said. “We are developing those [the hardware and software stack] together so that you’re really feeding back information between the software and the hardware as we learn, and this means that we can really develop a very optimized solution, ” she told Lardinois.

Microsoft clearly wants a piece of the quantum computing action, but they are hardly alone. IBM has had a quantum computing service available for programmers since last year, and last month it had a breakthrough with the release of a 20 qubit quantum computer. The company also announced a 50 qubit prototype.

Other companies working on quantum computing research include Google and Intel and a host of other established companies and startups.

We are still in very early days with this technology and it has a long way to go, but the potential is so great that all of these companies, including Microsoft, want to get in as early as possible to capture developer hearts and minds. Today’s release is part of that.

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