At its Ignite 2017 conference in September, Microsoft announced its plans for quantum computing, saying that it will be offering a software development kit this year. The Quantum Development Kit (QDK) is here, and there's a free preview now available.
It uses a brand-new high-level programming language, which is predictably called Q#. As you'd expect, it's "fully integrated with Visual Studio, enabling a complete professional enterprise-grade development tooling system for the fastest path to quantum programming efficiency."
The QDK comes with a local simulator, which offers debugging support. There's also an Azure-based simulator which will offer support for simulations that require over 40 qubits of computing power.
Quantum computing could help to solve some of the world's biggest problems, as it can do the kinds of calculations in minutes or hours that would take a classic computer "the lifetime of the universe" to do. The new field of computing can help to spark advances in artificial intelligence, and may help to solve problems like world hunger and the effects of climate change.
Microsoft says that it plans to build a "robust, full-fledged quantum computing system", which ranges from hardware to the software stack. The company's approach uses a topological qubit, which needs to be stored at extremely low temperatures, or more specifically, 30 millikelvin, which is just barely above absolute zero.
If they're not stored at such a low temperature, the qubits can be disturbed or even destroyed, so most approaches involve a lot of error correction. Topological qubits should have error correction built right in though.
You can download the free preview of the Quantum Development Kit here. One thing is for sure: you can make one heck of a Hello, World app with it.