Special Reports

Quantum computing: Same plot, shorter film

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IBM (NYSE: IBM) states that its quantum computing architecture will eclipse anything classical computing can produce once it can entangle 50 quantum bits (qubits). When IBM announced its quantum cloud service in March 2017, it sat at 5 qubits; by June it had reached 16 qubits. This development trajectory suggests the IBM Q Series will eclipse classical computing in two to three years. On the other hand, quantum pure play D-Wave recently released a system doubling the qubit performance from 1,000 to 2,000. The differences between the two architectures are nuanced and reminiscent of the high-performance computing development arcs of the past 40 years. In classical computing, niche vendors such as Cray and Tandem innovated around special-purpose computers addressing mission-critical, niche applications before general-purpose computing architectures could provide the same compute output at commercially acceptable price points. Quantum will likely follow the same path: niche innovation followed by general-purpose adoption.

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