February 27, 2018 // 11:15 a.m.
Microsoft has declared that its quantum computing efforts are not to be restricted to its in-house operating system, releasing the first version of its Quantum Development Kit with support for Linux and macOS systems.
Based on the concept of 'qubits' rather than binary bits and offering the potential for the major acceleration of particular computational tasks - with, the fear goes, those tasks potentially extending to the ability to immediately decrypt most current cryptographic algorithms once currently-limited quantum computer technology becomes sufficiently advanced - quantum computing is seen by many as the next logical step. Microsoft, for its part, has been working on the technology for years, announcing in 2016 that it was redoubling its efforts and late last year releasing its first public Quantum Development Kit.
Now, the Quantum Development Kit is receiving a major update: Support for Linux and macOS machines. 'This has been our #1 requested feature from developers, and we’re thrilled to deliver support for building Q# quantum applications on macOS and Linux,' explains Microsoft's Jeff Henshaw of the move in the company's announcement, 'including integration with VS [Visual Studio] Code and quantum simulation support'.
Interestingly, the move goes beyond simply allowing users to play with quantum computing on the machine of their choice: This week's release includes the relicensing of Microsoft's quantum development libraries and sample applications under a permissive open-source licence, allowing developers to both experiment with the code and reuse it directly within their own applications - and even to contribute bug fixes and enhancements back to Microsoft for inclusion in future releases.
The new Quantum Development Kit also, Microsoft claims, comes with a four- or fivefold increase in simulation performance for quantum simulations involving 20 or more qubits and, for the first time, the ability to call Q# routines from Python and vice-versa - though this feature is, at present, a Windows exclusive.
Microosft's Quantum Development Kit is available for free download from the company's official website.