Gil said IBM's quantum computing platform is a core initiative within the newly formed IBM Research Frontiers Institute, a consortium that develops and shares breakthrough computing technologies to spur world-changing innovations. Founding members of the Frontiers Institute include Samsung, JSR and Honda.
"Quantum computers are very different from today's computers, not only in what they look like and are made of, but more importantly in what they can do," said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research, in a statement. "Quantum computing is becoming a reality and it will extend computation far beyond what is imaginable with today's computers," "This moment represents the birth of quantum cloud computing. By giving hands-on access to IBM's experimental quantum systems, the IBM Quantum Experience will make it easier for researchers and the scientific community to accelerate innovations in the quantum field, and help discover new applications for this technology."
IBM argues that as Moore's Law continues to stall, quantum computing could arise as one of the technologies to pick up the slack and help find new discoveries in artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing, among other areas.
IBM watcher Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, said the IBM quantum computing offering's 5-qubit size is significant because it provides the quantum processor a bit more stability than a system with fewer qubits would have, and is also small enough that work performed on it can be emulated or cross-checked on a traditional binary system.
"Emulation is critical because the IBM system will be the first actual quantum processor that most researchers have ever been able to access," King said. "So many of the projects will center on checking the validity and value of their projects."
That goes to the heart of the second issue that makes IBM's quantum processor significant, King told eWEEK. "While the company obviously has hopes of profiting from its investments, IBM's decision to open the system to the public will help to ensure than the benefits of its research impact a far wider audience," he noted.
Indeed, King said he believes this is the first quantum computing research project from a commercial entity that is open to the public. Nor are private investments likely to be used this way, he argued.
"The highest profile effort I'm aware of—Google's purchase of a $10 million D-Wave system—is being used for the company's own purposes," King said. "That's completely reasonable: Google put down the cash and should be able to use its investment in any way it chooses. Suffice it to say that IBM has chosen another path."