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article imageMicrosoft launches preview of its quantum development toolkit

By James Walker     Dec 12, 2017 in Technology
Microsoft's launched a preview of its quantum development kit. The set tools include a quantum programming language designed to help developers get started with quantum models. It includes everything needed to run quantum programs on a regular computer.
The Quantum Development Kit was announced by Microsoft back at Ignite in September. Today, it launched the first version of the tools, pitching them as a way for programmers to learn about how quantum computers operate. The kit lets developers write for quantum environments using similar principles to classical programming.
The toolset consists of several components that can together create a full quantum development environment. There's Microsoft's new Q# quantum programming language, a quantum simulator that can run on "a typical laptop" and a set of extensions for Microsoft's Visual Studio development software. Programmers will be able to get acquainted with quantum programs inside an environment they're already familiar with.
When Microsoft first unveiled the Development Kit, it didn’t reveal details of what the programming language would include. Q# is designed to offer an experience that will be familiar to people currently using C#. C# is a popular managed language used to power many Windows desktop apps. Many of the concepts, constructs and syntax used in Q# are derived from C#.
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The similarities between the programming languages will allow developers to concentrate on understanding the operation of their quantum apps. By removing the need to learn a complex new language, Microsoft is lowering the learning curve for people just starting out in quantum development.
The aim is to let programmers familiarise themselves with quantum computers now. When the technology becomes more mainstream, the developers will be able to position themselves as early experts in the field. The toolkit will help to democratise quantum computing so that anyone can access its potential.
"What you're going to see as a developer is the opportunity to tie into tools that you already know wells, services you know well," said Todd Holmdahl, Microsoft corporate vice president of quantum.
"There will be a twist with quantum computing, but it's our job to make it as easy as possible for the developers who know and love us to be able to use these new tools that could potentially do some things exponentially faster – which means going from a billion years on a classical computer to a couple hours on a quantum computer."
Because the development kit's still in preview, Microsoft's currently targeting early adopters. It should expand and gain recognition with a wider audience as new features are added. Programs written using the kit and run in the emulator can be deployed without modification to a real quantum computer. The emulator's said to provide around 30 qubits of computing performance, or 40 qubits when used with Microsoft's Azure cloud.
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