Back in September, we talked about the groundwork Microsoft was laying for quantum computing with a new programming language in development. Not even three months later, Microsoft is ready to toss a free preview version of that new language to the public and it's called the Quantum Development Kit. That dev kit includes the Q# programming language, a quantum computing simulator, and other resources for people who want to write apps for quantum computers.
From left, Charles Marcus, Krysta Svore, Leo Kouwenhoven and Michael Freedman are leading Microsoft’s quantum computing efforts. Photo by Brian Smale.
The Q# programming language was built from the ground up specifically for quantum computing. This dev kit will allow people of all sorts to program on quantum computers, even if they aren't experts in the field. Microsoft deeply integrated the dev kit into Visual Studio, making it familiar to people already developing applications in other programming languages. The local quantum computer simulator can simulate around 30 logical qubits of quantum computing power.
The local machine the simulator runs on is a typical laptop. This means that in small instances, the developer can debug code and test programs right on their own computer. The dev kit also comes alongside a "comprehensive suite" of documentation, libraries, and sample programs. The goal of that content is to give the background that devs will need to take advantage of aspects of computing that are unique to quantum systems, like quantum teleportation. Quantum teleportation sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but it is a method of securely sharing information across qubits connected by quantum entanglement.
"The hope is that you play with something like teleportation and you get intrigued," said Krysta Svore, a principal researcher at Microsoft.
The apps that the developers build using the dev kit and the quantum computer simulator will eventually run on a production quantum computer when they are available. "The beauty of it is that this code won’t need to change when we plug it into the quantum hardware,"
What will quantum computers be sued for in the future? Microsoft's Allison Linn wrote, "Experts believe quantum computers could allow scientists to address some of the world’s toughest challenges, such as world hunger or the dangerous effects of climate change. That’s partly because quantum computers will be able to do calculations in hours or even minutes that would take the lifetime of the universe for even the most advanced classical computers in use today."