Inside Microsoft’s Quantum Race

What is Microsoft actually up to in the quantum computing space, how did it get to where it is today, and what’s next for the firm?

Microsoft’s investment in quantum goes way back – long before some of the other major players in the landscape such as Google. Its first centre for investigating quantum computing was launched in 2004, before Windows Vista was released, with the Station Q lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Its founding director was mathematician Michael Freedman, who has been at the firm since 1997, and whose scientific achievements include those relating to topology in quantum mechanics.

One of the many riddles in quantum computing is the instability of the qubit itself; the basic two-state unit of quantum information.

They tend to disappear without much warning, and are prone to disruption by the tiniest changes in their environment. Quantum computing will only be possible when these easily disrupted ‘physical qubits’ are stable enough to form ‘logical qubits’ that are protected against this interference and can be used to hold quantum information.

Microsoft believes one solution to this precision problem could be found in topological systems. These are devices that, as Gizmodo lucidly explains, can be engineered to retain inherent qualities despite changes to them.

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