Microsoft is accelerating the manufacture of its quantum computer, as it pursues a future of computing that goes beyond the current PCs and servers.
The Redmond company has been conducting research in quantum computing for over ten years. Now, its goal is to put theory into work and create real hardware and software.
To that end, Microsoft has put Todd Holmdahl – who was involved in the development of Kinect, HoloLens, and Xbox – at the helm of the development team. He has also hired four prominent university professors to contribute to the company’s research.
— Microsoft (@Microsoft) 25 September 2017
The quantum computers, in theory, can largely overcome the current supercomputers. The ultimate goal is to develop universal quantum computers that can run all existing programs and run a wide range of calculations, just like today’s computers.
Companies such as IBM, D-Wave, and Google are also conducting research in this field. IBM researchers have argued that universal quantum computers are still decades away from our present, so they have focused on creating hardware aimed at solving specific problems.
D-Wave and IBM have developed these computers based on different theories and have dealt a blow to the design of the other. D-Wave is trying to get more programmers to test their hardware so it can be used in more applications.
It is not yet known when Microsoft quantum hardware will appear. Like the others, the company will have to run circuits in which it can test applications and address problems such as error correction, fault tolerance, and gating. The hardware will only be freed after a number of quantum computing problems are solved.
Conventional PCs represent data using 1 and 0, but quantum computers are much more complex. They use qubits, which can take advantage of the laws of quantum mechanics to reach several states. A qubit can contain 1 and 0 simultaneously and expand to states beyond that.
Microsoft researchers are working on a completely new topological quantum computer (watch video) that uses exotic materials to limit errors. There are still questions about the feasibility of these materials, so the company may need a lot of time to conduct practical quantum circuits.