A few days ago, Google, yet again, made headlines by unveiling Bristlecone, a new quantum computing chip with 72 quantum bits, or qubits — the fundamental units of computation in a quantum machine. With the release, Bristlecone becomes the most powerful quantum processor in the world breaking IBM’s previous record of quantum qubits. More impressively, Google believes that the new chip is pretty close to achieve “quantum supremacy.” That’s the point at which a quantum computer can do calculations beyond the reach of today’s fastest supercomputers.
Beyond dissecting Google’s impressive milestone with Bristlecone, I believe the new announcement shades new light about how the new quantum computing market is shaping up. With Google, IBM and Microsoft devoting large investment to their quantum initiatives, its just a matter of time before we start seeing an aggressive raise to capture the first generation of quantum computing applications. However, differently from other markets such as cloud computing, the tech giants seem to be following different paths when comes to quantum dominance.
Google Wants to the King of Quantum Infrastructure
When comes to quantum computing, Google is doing what Google does: faster and scalable. Bristlecone didn’t only exhibit impressive performance by reaching 72 quantum qubits but also an impressive low error rate. The initial tests demonstrated low error rates for readout (1%), single-qubit gates (0.1%) and most importantly two-qubit gates (0.6%) as their best result.
Google’s initial efforts in the quantum space seemed to be targeted to create processors and infrastructure that can be made available as part of their cloud platform in a way that presents a path for mainstream adoption.
Microsoft Wants Quantum Developers Love
Microsoft is another tech giant really invested in quantum computing. Under the leadership of bright minds such as Fields Medal award winner Michael Friedman, the Redmond giant has released the first version of their quantum computing technology and guest what? Its all about developers!. Microsoft’s Quantum Development Kit includes a new programming language named Q# which is tailored to quantum algorithms. The platforms also includes drivers to languages such as C# which enables the interoperability of quantum applications with mainstream .NET libraries. Additionally, the Quantum Development Kit provides simulators that enable the execution of quantum applications in mainstream hardware. The entire stack is integrated with popular development tools such as Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code as well as the Azure platform.
The Quantum Development Kit clearly signals the market that developer adoption is a vital metric is Microsoft’s approach to quantum computing. From that perspective, its not crazy to think that the Quantum Development Kit will be able to run on hardware created by Microsoft’s competitors such as IBM or Google.
IBM Wants to Lead the Quantum Enterprise
IBM’s approach to quantum computing seems to be somewhere in the middle between Microsoft and Google. The IBM Q Experience is the main umbrella that encompasses IBM’s quantum initiatives such as the following:
- A Quantum Composer, which is a graphical user interface where developers can create new quantum circuit (called quantum score), much like a composer composes a music score;
- A simulator that can test quantum scores;
- Access to an actual quantum processor running in an IBM Quantum Computing lab, where quantum scores will be executed;
- A quantum community where quantum scores, ideas, and experiences can be shared and discussed.
- An open source development kit called QISKit which allow developers to implement quantum computing algorithms in Python.
Don’t Underestimate the Chinese
When comes to new technical trends such as artificial intelligence of quantum computing, China is determined to not follow the US but the lead the movement. In that context, we should expect companies such as Alibaba and Tencent to become really competitive in the quantum computing space. Recently, Alibaba announced new group of quantum computing services as part of its Alibaba Cloud platform. We should expect more initiatives like this in the near future. Similarly, advanced chip makers such as Nvidia, QUALCOMM or Intel are likely to enter the quantum computing race challenging the processors created by IBM and Google.