Intel is taking a slow and steady approach to quantum computing. Competitors like Google may be racing to achieve so-called quantum supremacy, in which a quantum computer outperforms an ordinary one. But Intel's James Clarke has bigger ideas. He leads the firm's quantum computing research team, and says it is looking past near-term goals in order to be the first to make a device with a million qubits, or quantum bits – enough to have a real impact on the world.
Predicting the dynamics of many-body quantum systems is a formidable computational task, in which quantum computers could come to the aid of classical ones. However, the corrections needed to keep errors in check as a quantum computer works require enormous quantum resources. Li and Benjamin propose a hybrid quantum-classical computer based on variational principles. In the proposed system, the classical computer does most of the work and "outsources" to its quantum partner only very specific tasks. This reduces the number of operations that the quantum partner needs to do, allowing it to be less than perfect; the system can efficiently compensate for the quantum partner's errors.
Microsoft is accelerating its efforts to make a quantum computer as it looks to a future of computing beyond today's PCs and servers. Microsoft has researched quantum computing for more than a decade. Now the company's goal is to put the theory to work and create actual hardware and software. To that effect, Microsoft has put Todd Holmdahl--who was involved in the development of Kinect, HoloLens, and Xbox--to lead the effort to create quantum hardware and software. The company has also hired four prominent university professors to contribute to the company's research.
Google has big plans for quantum computing. The company has come up with a strategy for demonstrating quantum supremacy, the claim that quantum computers can perform tasks that no current computers can. While it's widely assumed that we will eventually reach quantum supremacy, nobody has done it yet because current quantum computers can only run a small number of specialised algorithms. Their plan is based on simulating coin flips. An ordinary computer does this by storing two numbers and choosing one of them at random each time.
IBM has announced a major new initiative to make universal quantum computers available commercially. IBM Q will offer up the power of quantum computation via the IBM Cloud platform, a first for the industry, and potentially a major step forward for the field. Quantum hardware has already been made available by the likes of D-Wave, but its hardware is limited in the kinds of computation it can achieve. IBM Q marks the first time that a universal quantum computer is being offered up. A universal quantum computer is capable of tackling problems that are too large for a conventional system, so IBM Q would have many applications beyond what's possible with current technology.