Microsoft has updated its Quantum Development Kit, adding improved debugging capabilities and performance enhancements for faster simulations.
Released in late 2017, the programming toolkit helps coders get started on developing software for quantum computers, even if they aren't experts in quantum physics. It works with Microsoft's Visual Studio IDE (integrated development environment) and includes the Q# (Q-sharp) programming language, enabling developers to sharpen their skills using familiar tools and coding concepts.
In the latest update, released June 22, Microsoft has added new debugging features for Visual Studio to help developers improve the quality of their code.
"The probability of measuring a '1' on a qubit is now automatically shown in the Visual Studio debugging window, making it easier to check the accuracy of your code," informed Cathy Palmer, program manager of Quantum Software & Services at Microsoft, in a blog post. Whereas a bit can represent a one or a zero in conventional computing, a qubit, short for quantum bit, can represent a one, zero or both.
"The release also improves the display of variable properties, enhancing the readability of the quantum state," continued Palmer. In addition, Microsoft has added two new functions, DumpMachine and DumpRegister, that output the targeted quantum system's probability information for a given point of time. And thanks to some new performance tweaks, running quantum simulations goes by much faster, regardless of how many qubits they require, she added.
For Microsoft, getting developers interested in creating software for quantum computing means making the field accessible to developers who toil away on non-Windows PCs.
In February, the software giant released its Quantum Development Kit for Linux and macOS PCs. In both versions, it integrates with Visual Studio Code, a lightweight multiplatform code editor from Microsoft that is available for those operating systems and Windows. Since then, "tens of thousands of developers" have taken the plunge, Palmer said.
Naturally, Microsoft isn't the only big-league technology company that is preparing the IT community for the quantum computing era.
In March, Google lifted the curtain on Bristlecone, a 72-qubit quantum processor that leap-frogged IBM's 50-qubit processor from November 2017, setting a new record. Bristlecone brings Google a step closer to achieving "quantum supremacy," or building quantum computers that can perform tasks that are impossible on conventional computers, according to the company.
In November 2017, IBM declared that the IT industry had entered the "quantum ready" phase upon filling the ranks of its IBM Q Network with a dozen organizations, including JPMorgan Chase, Samsung and Oak Ridge National Lab. Its IBM Q Network is dedicated to exploring commercial applications of quantum computing using the vendor's IBM Q quantum computing systems.
Intel, meanwhile, used this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to unveil Tangle Lake, a 49-qubit chip that demonstrates the processor maker's rapid progress in designing chips for quantum computers. Tangle Lake arrived just three months after Intel had introduced a 17-qubit chip that was built in collaboration with QuTech, a quantum research and development company based in the Netherlands.