The Race to Sell True Quantum Computers Begins Before They Really Exist
WITHIN THE NEXT five years, #Google will produce a viable #quantumcomputer. That’s the stake the company has just planted. In the pages of Nature late last week, researchers from Google’s Quantum AI Laboratory told the world that a machine leveraging the seemingly magical principles of quantum mechanics will soon outperform traditional computers on certain tasks. They said this long-anticipated technology will, among other things, improve the artificial intelligence that’s already remaking the tech world. “The field of quantum computing will soon achieve a historic milestone,” the team wrote. They call this milestone “quantum supremacy.” Now #IBM is planting a stake of its own. Today, the company announced plans to offer commercial quantum machines to businesses and research organizations within the year. These machines will not bring quantum supremacy—namely, they won’t surpass the performance of traditional machines. But much like Google, IBM claims it will reach that threshold over the next few years. “We are reaching a key moment,” says IBM research vice president Dario Gill. It’s no accident that these two announcements arrived at about the same time. A true quantum computer is not yet a reality. “You can’t do anything practical today,” says Gregoire Ribordy, founder and CEO of quantum cyber-security company ID Quantique. But the world’s biggest tech companies are already jockeying for their own form of commercial supremacy as they anticipate a quantum breakthrough. Both Google and IBM now say they will offer access to true quantum computing over the internet (call it quantum cloud computing). #Microsoft recently hired several notable researchers in launching its own effort to build a quantum computer. And in China, internet giant Alibaba has teamed up with the Chinese Academy of Science to build a quantum computing lab. Meanwhile, various organizations (including Google) are exploring the potential of a commercial machine from D-Wave, which takes a more immediate but less powerful approach to the problem.