There’s a race on in the world of technology to build working quantum computers. The biggest technology companies in the world, including IBM, Google, and Microsoft are working hard to make breakthroughs in the quantum tech that could change computing forever. Now, Microsoft and Google are claiming that they are close to some serious progress.
Richard Waters writes in the FT:
The two impending milestones, from Microsoft and Google, will highlight how ideas until recently at the frontiers of theoretical physics are quickly taking practical form.
Despite beginning work on quantum computing 12 years ago, Microsoft has yet to produce a working qubit, or quantum bit — the basic building block of quantum machines. It is now “imminently close” to announcing it has passed that point, says Mr Holmdahl.
Such declarations are usually made through research papers in science journals, meaning they must go through a process of peer review before publication. As well as a key moment for Microsoft, it will also be “an important moment for science”, says Mr Holmdahl.
Microsoft has taken longer than some: IBM announced its first working qubit in 1998, and in December announced that it had lined up partners to help it develop practical applications for the technology. But Microsoft’s qubit design represents a giant bet on an unproven technology. If it is right, then the software company would quickly overtake others who have a head start in the field and gain a huge advantage.
Microsoft’s design tackles one of the biggest drawbacks in the technology. Quantum machines require extensive error-correction to make up for the fact that qubits are inherently fragile. They only remain in a quantum state for a tiny amount of time, and are hard to read without interfering with the results.
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Jeremy Jones, CFA
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