Microsoft is going multi-platform with its Quantum Development Kit, which includes the Q# (Q-sharp) programming language and a simulator for coders exploring how to build applications for quantum computers.
Quantum Development Kit made its debut during Microsoft’s Ignite conference in September 2017, followed by a beta release in December. Now, answering the pleas of developers wanting to take a crack at quantum programming using PCs that run something other than Windows, Microsoft has released an updated version of the kit for Linux and macOS, said Jeff Henshaw, group program manager of Quantum Software at Microsoft in a Feb. 26 announcement.
Henshaw described macOS and Linux support as the top-requested feature from developers. It also integrates with Visual Studio Code, a lightweight code editor from Microsoft, which is also available for both operating systems.
Meanwhile, the Windows version of the kit now supports for the Python programming language.
“Many developers have existing libraries of code in Python so we wanted to give them easy access to that functionality from Q# without having to port anything,” Henshaw stated. “Available as a preview on Windows today, Python interoperability allows Q# code to call Python routines directly, and vice-versa.”
Microsoft also open sourced its quantum development libraries, enabling developers to incorporate them into their own applications or add their own contributions. Finally, the kit’s quantum simulator now runs considerably faster.
Users can expect a four to five times improvement in performance, particularly in simulations involving 20 qubits or more. Where the familiar bit can represent one or zero, a qubit, or quantum bit, can represent one, zero or both.
Of course, Microsoft isn’t alone in helping to set the stage for quantum computers in the mainstream.
During January’s Consumer Electronics Show, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich unveiled a 49-qubit quantum processor dubbed “Tangle Lake.” Earlier in November 2017, IBM announced that it had created a working 50-quibit chip that will be used in upcoming IBM Q systems, quantum computing environments that are accessible using the company’s cloud platform. Some early IBM Q customers include Chase, Honda, JPMorgan, Samsung and the Oak Ridge National Lab.
While the world awaits the innovations that quantum computing can bring to the IT industry, some experts are sounding the alarm on the challenge quantum technology poses to cyber-security.
Noting that one of the key reason computers are in existence is that they were instrumental in helping to create and crack cryptography, Konstantinos Karagiannis, chief technology officer for Security Consulting at BT Americas, has said there’s are some good reasons to be wary of the exuberance surrounding quantum computers.
During last September’s Open Source Summit in Los Angeles, he said that quantum computing research and development is being largely driven by the race to crack modern cryptography, which can also pose a risk to Bitcoin.
The situation may not be as dire as it seems. Multiple post-quantum cryptography efforts are underway, including open-source projects like Open Quantum Safe and Quantum-Resistant Ledger.