Behind IBM’s quantum computing commercialisation play

Behind IBM’s quantum computing commercialisation play

What IBM’s first round of commercial quantum computing partnerships tells us about the company’s long-term strategy for the technology



“At the core of the arrangements are collaboration and the sharing of any knowledge gains across the IBM Q Network. In short, the Q Network calls for the collective sharing of IP knowledge for the benefit of the broader ecosystem,” the analysts said.

Woollacott and Long go on to suggest that the current structure of the program suggests that IBM expects quantum computing commecialisation to be an ecosystem play – no stranger to the IT industry, which has seen so many of the solutions it creates and uses merged into broader ecosystem stacks.

Regardless of this glimpses into IBM’s long-term play, the potential structures of a commercial quantum computing approach to the market still have some way to go before firming up into something recognisable to partners and other potential quantum computing users.

“For the moment, sharing and participation arrangements will remain highly negotiable interactions between IBM and the participating members,” the analysts said.

“Expect open contributions on the underlying mechanics and process best practices, while the industry-specific algorithms and insights will likely be more tightly held by the commercial members participating in the IBM Q Network,” they said.

One of the points the analysts stress in their report is that there is a need for the broader development and curation of quantum computing standards around the programming languages and application programming interface (API) connectors.

This is something Microsoft has been working on, with the software vendor releasing a free preview of its Quantum Development Kit earlier this month, giving Microsoft partners and end users the chance to familiarise themselves with its new Q# programming language.

Microsoft first announced its Quantum Development Kit at its Ignite conference in September, saying at the time that the kit would be designed for developers keen to learn how to program on quantum computers.

The idea behind quantum computing is by now fairly well established. Unlike classical computing, which uses digital bits as binary switches to carry out calculations, quantum computing makes use of the unusual properties of subatomic quantum bits – or qubits – to perform calculations.

Broadly, quantum computers represent a way to harness the ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at a time to solve problems that are too complex or time-consuming for existing computers.

Microsoft, Google, IBM and other technology companies are all developing quantum computers, using a range of approaches.

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