Microsoft launches preview of its quantum development toolkit

Gwen Vasquez
December 13, 2017

Microsoft is among a number of companies keen to get ahead of the game, with the development kit enabling the creation and testing of apps, that could theoretically be eventually ported over to a topological quantum computer. However, while quantum computing has been around for years, it is still in its very early stages of development.

Microsoft has launched a preview of a development kit for quantum computers, including a programming language called Q# ("Q Sharp") and a quantum computing simulator that the company said can run on a typical laptop. The Q# programming language was built from the ground up specifically for quantum computing.

The introduction of programming tools based on those developers are already familiar with could help spread knowledge of quantum computing concepts to people who aren't experts in the field, Microsoft said. And it's created to work with a local quantum simulator, also released as part of the kit, that can simulate around 30 logical qubits of quantum computing power using a typical laptop computer. This will enable developers to debug quantum code and test programs on small instances right on their PCs.

There is also a cloud-based, Azure-based sim for large-scale challenges, as well.

It includes Microsoft's own Q# language and library, a complier, a local quantum computing simulator, and an extension for Visual Studio developer tools.

Quantum computers are expected to boost the capabilities of artificial intelligence, improve cybersecurity, and allow for more nuanced natural language processing.

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So you want to learn how to program a quantum computer.

It's worth noting that Redmond is competing with the likes of Google and IBM to develop real-life quantum computers that are more powerful than a handful of qubits.

The programs written in Q# can be tested on a simulation environment on a local machine, with debugging support. The toolkit will help to democratise quantum computing so that anyone can access its potential.

It goes without saying that quantum physics is extremely complex, and even some of the smartest people in the world confess that quantum computing is hard for them to understand. The kit lets developers write for quantum environments using similar principles to classical programming.

"What you're going to see as a developer is the opportunity to tie into tools that you already know well, services you already know well", said Todd Holmdahl, Microsoft's VP in charge of its quantum effort.

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