A Million Years in a Second

By Michael Fiorito, MDS

At a conference in Orlando this Monday, Microsoft announced the release of a new programming language for quantum computers. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the technology would “help us tackle some of the biggest challenges we face.” He added that quantum computers would enable breakthroughs in energy and medicine.

It is said that quantum computers will unleash immense calculating power by exploiting the weirdness in quantum mechanics. For instance, a convention computer manages data as bits that can be either 1 or 0. In a quantum computer, bits can simultaneously be both 1 and 0, vastly increasing the computer’s computational power. Get this: Researchers suggest that problems which would take millions of years on a conventional supercomputer might take minutes on a modest quantum computer. Millions of years down to minutes. Let that sink in.

Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, positioned quantum computing as one of three burgeoning technologies crucial to Microsoft’s future. The others are artificial intelligence and augmented reality (HoloLens).

Nadella envisions offering a quantum computing option alongside Microsoft’s conventional cloud servers for highly complex modeling simulations. You can imagine its application in climate, biology or chemistry research

Nadella says he wants coders to familiarize themselves with quantum algorithms and start thinking about quantum killer applications now.

While optimistic, Microsoft, nor its competitors, have yet built a reliable enough quantum computer. But history suggests that the company which designs a quantum programming language for commercial usage will have a good chance at dominating that market.

The race is on.