Microsoft makes quantum computing simple(r) to understand

In recent weeks, Microsoft has been quietly boosting its efforts in quantum computing, including the hiring of Douglas Carmean, who previously led the design of multiple processors at Intel, to join its 'Station Q' research and development team. 

Quantum computing is a field that many will have heard of, but that very few really understand - and with good reason, as this is still an area of science that is in its infancy, with many discoveries still to be made. The giants of the technology industry have been investing in quantum computing research for some time; Microsoft's own R&D efforts have been ongoing for the best part of a decade. 


No, we don't know what any of this means either 

But what exactly is quantum computing? And how does it differ from the computing that we know and love/hate today? 

People with very large brains at Microsoft have put together a nice, easy-to-understand video overview to help the rest of us mere mortals to grasp the basic concepts behind quantum computing, and its potential to completely transform technology - and, one day, perhaps even to help us unlock some of the biggest secrets of the universe around us. 

Current computing is built on information stored as bits - either a 1 or 0 - arranged in strings - but while we've been able to do amazing things built on that convention, there are constraints to what can be achieved: "Classical computers have limits to their problem-solving prowess," says Microsoft. "There are some problems so difficult that even if all the computers worked on the problem in tandem, it would still take them a very long time to solve it." 

But quantum computers eschew traditional bits in favor of quantum bits, or 'qubits'. Quantum mechanics are fundamentally divergent from conventional classical physics; particles in a quantum state can 'share' information from one place to another, and 'entangled' quantum particles can maintain a direct connection to each other, no matter how great the distance between them. Particles can also achieve 'superposition' in a quantum state, allowing them to exist in multiple states at the same time.

This is what makes the possibilities of quantum computing so exciting. A qubit can exist as both a 1 and a 0 simultaneously, which opens up the potential for exponential growth in computing calculations. 


Microsoft corporate vice-president and head of Microsoft Research, Peter Lee

The head of Microsoft Research, Peter Lee, explained: "It's like that old story problem from math in school where you offer kids a thousand dollars right now, or to give them one penny today, two pennies tomorrow, and continue to double that every day for 30 days." Most choose the thousand dollars up front, he added, but those that opted for the pennies would end up with over $10.7m a month later. 

The potential for quantum computing is, quite simply, massive. As Microsoft says, "with long strings of qubits performing computations, problems that would take computers eons to solve could be tackled in the time it takes to grab a cup of coffee." 

For industries and fields that rely heavily on computational calculations - such as medical research, engineering and machine learning - quantum computing could help to solve some of the biggest problems and mysteries of science.

To find out more about Microsoft's quantum computing efforts, check out the company's fascinating in-depth look into its Station Q research center.

Images via Microsoft

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"No, we don't know what any of this means either "
That is the process of their product offering NAMING codex. .NET Server, Bing, Xbone, August Update.
Calling 8.1 when it is Kernel 6.1.... On an on.

Nothing really new

Also, no one currently at Neowin or Microsoft will truly see the usage of this tech. This is problably for our grandchildren. There are a lot of variables and unknown traits as this point.

Funny how MSFT can do a pretty decent job at explaining quantum computing but are unable to explain why Windows Phone is such a great mobile OS..

Theres a tonne of feature videos out there from MS on Windows phone, the difference is you are comparing a video explaining a term and future science which people barely have an opinion on let alone understanding of to something which everyone has an opinion on, personal preferences, preconceived notions and even brand loyalty.

I suspect MS could produce yet another short feature video for windows phone and your comments would still have the same flavour.

Osiris said,
Theres a tonne of feature videos out there from MS on Windows phone, the difference is you are comparing a video explaining a term and future science which people barely have an opinion on let alone understanding of to something which everyone has an opinion on, personal preferences, preconceived notions and even brand loyalty.

I suspect MS could produce yet another short feature video for windows phone and your comments would still have the same flavour.

Well said. Windows Phone is in a market filled with people with brand allegiance (fanboys), ecosystem commitments (lots of app store purchases) and personal preferences (iOS is too simple, Android is slow, Windows Phone is too different, etc). Convincing people to "come to your side", especially when your late into the game, and especially when people are so fiercely loyal to their preferences is a steep hill to climb.

Making complex subjects easier to understand is much different to convincing people to change their opinions. Humans are subborn like that.

Majesticmerc said,

Well said. Windows Phone is in a market filled with people with brand allegiance (fanboys), ecosystem commitments (lots of app store purchases) and personal preferences (iOS is too simple, Android is slow, Windows Phone is too different, etc). Convincing people to "come to your side", especially when your late into the game, and especially when people are so fiercely loyal to their preferences is a steep hill to climb.

Making complex subjects easier to understand is much different to convincing people to change their opinions. Humans are subborn like that.

Wow! I could not have said it better, you explained a hard to understand subject very easy, thanks.

Majesticmerc said,
...Android is slow...

Do you have anything to back that or you are just saying it because you relay on the bad legacy Galaxy S1 in 2010 left?

paulheu said,
but are unable to explain why Windows Phone is such a great mobile OS..

If it was, it would be the most popular phone platform in the world. It's not, so logically most people don't find it to be "a great mobile OS".

DaveBG said,

Do you have anything to back that or you are just saying it because you relay on the bad legacy Galaxy S1 in 2010 left?


You just proved his whole point.

DaveBG said,

Do you have anything to back that or you are just saying it because you relay on the bad legacy Galaxy S1 in 2010 left?

I don't have to back it up because I'm not claiming it's true, nor do I claim that iOS is too simple or Windows Phone too different. I was simply using those as examples to demonstrate my point.

Bundy said,

You just proved his whole point.

For that to be true, he would have had to say "Android was slow". No one who knows modern stock Android would say it's slow. Any perceived UI inconsistent frame rate all but disappeared after the introduction of project butter. The only people calling Android laggy and slow are fanboys with a grudge. And they can only reference very old (pre-JB) phones.

simplezz said,
For that to be true, he would have had to say "Android was slow". -- snip -- And they can only reference very old (pre-JB) phones.

Ditto that, it's improved a lot since the old versions, although personally I'd say it's a combination of both optimizing the OS itself (which they've done a lot since the old versions) and beefier hardware. Just for example I still have a no-name-why-the-hell-did-I-buy-this tablet laying around somewhere that's rocking Android 1.5... the OS has come a long way, but comparing the POS hardware it's running on versus something current is night and day too. But that said no denying they've improved it, another unit I've got here has gone from Froyo I think it was (2.2?) to 4.0 to 4.4, and it's gotten noticeably smoother each time.

On the WP side, at least in my own experiences, it's been damn fast right out of the gate using less resources and has gotten better as well.

DaveBG said,

Do you have anything to back that or you are just saying it because you relay on the bad legacy Galaxy S1 in 2010 left?

Android is built on Java so will always be far slower than either iOS or WP8. Just a fact of life.

Major_Plonquer said,

Android is built on Java so will always be far slower than either iOS or WP8. Just a fact of life.


You obviously have no seen iOS 7 running on Iphone 4. It is the slowest experience ever. It lag and freeze. Where is your fact of life now?

"If it was, it would be the most popular phone platform in the world. It's not, so logically most people don't find it to be "a great mobile OS"."

So much fallacy in this. 1st you assume those who didn't buy a WP actually looked at one. 2nd you assume the best products are the ones that sell better. By that logic, McDonalds has the BEST cheeseburger ever made and the great place down the street you love sucks.

Microsoft Research are not responsible for Marketing. Was thinking the same myself when I got a Lumia 930 last week only to notice the Dolby features I wasn't made aware of until I saw the logo on the box