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article imageMicrosoft's quantum computing dev kit is now up to 5x faster

By James Walker     Feb 26, 2018 in Technology
Microsoft's announced the first set of updates for its Quantum Development Kit, an early version of a software suite that lets developers write apps for quantum computers. The new release improves performance by up to 5x, accelerating development.
Microsoft launched the first preview of the development kit back in December. It consists of a new quantum programming language and debugging add-ins for the company's Visual Studio development environment. This only runs on Windows though, which has prevented developers using Mac and Linux from getting started with the kit.
Today, Microsoft announced Mac and Linux devs can now also start experimenting with designs for quantum apps. The company's bringing its Q# programming language to these platforms by integrating it with Visual Studio Code, its lightweight cross-platform code editor. The quantum computing simulator is also now available on Mac and Linux, enabling prototype apps to be run on development devices.
The simulator itself has been improved too. Microsoft's optimised the way in which the simulator runs large projects to significantly enhance performance. Apps that are simulating quantum processors with 20 or more qubits will notice the largest benefits, with performance up to 5x higher in some scenarios.
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The update to the development kit demonstrates Microsoft's ongoing work to make quantum computing more accessible. The company is approaching the dev kit as a way for developers to become familiar with quantum computing before the tech goes mainstream. Once real quantum computers are widely available, developers will be able to upload the apps they create today without making further changes.
According to Microsoft, "thousands" of people across the world have already downloaded and used the development kit. They vary from professional researchers and quantum algorithm developers to students, hobbyists and programmers primarily skilled in other computing disciplines. So far, the toolkit seems to be fulfilling Microsoft's intentions of broadening the developer base for quantum computing.
Developers can download the latest version of the kit from Microsoft's dedicated quantum computing website. The release brings the availability of quantum computing a little closer to reality, enabling developers to begin their upskilling now. Although Microsoft doesn't yet have a fully-functioning quantum computer, the company has previously signalled it is on track to commercialise a scalable design this year. Having a software platform already available will accelerate further research in quantum systems.
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