When will the commercialization of quantum computers take place?
In the past, one of the major obstacles to commercializing quantum technology has been the components necessary to manufacture it. However, technological advances in lasers, semiconductors, electronic control components and manufacturing processes at lower temperatures have made the profitable production of quantum technology gradually more realistic. This results in very interesting possibilities, especially when looking at processors. While the bits of current processors can only take on the states 0 or 1, the so-called qubits can take on several states at the same time through quantum states such as superposition and entanglement. While current processor generations can only compute sequentially, it will be possible to perform computations in parallel by enabling several states at the same time. This results in a much higher theoretical computing power of such quantum processors. Examples of important potential areas of need for quantum computers would be, for example, the analysis of complex chemical molecules in the pharmaceutical industry or enabling faster further development of application possibilities for artificial intelligence. According to a survey by the consulting firm McKinsey, only 7,000 people were researching the systems worldwide in 2015. However, they had a budget of 1.5 billion US dollars. Research investments by companies, universities and states are steadily increasing. In terms of numbers, it is very difficult to precisely estimate the market potential. However, due to the fact that the often increased computing power could generate benefits across all industries and business fields, there should be considerable business potential for successful market participants. It is therefore worth taking a look at two companies that were very successful with the introduction of the first commercial computer generation.
International Business Machines Corp (US4592001014)
IBM played an essential role in the establishment of the first computers and also in the introduction of the personal computer. With regard to quantum computers, too, the American company would like to return to the market at an early stage. In March 2017, IBM announced that it would be the first company in the world to build a commercial version of a quantum computer. The medium-term goal should be the realization of a quantum computer based on up to 50 qubits. As early as 2016, IBM provided research institutions and companies with a quantum computer based on 16 qubits on a cloud basis. According to the company, up to 300,000 experiments and simulations have been carried out with it so far. This aspect deserves attention, as this means very early contact with potential customers for IBM, which could play an important role in the later market launch or monetization of quantum computers. In May 2017, the construction of a quantum processor based on 17 qubits was also announced. This prototype should be the basis of the planned commercial quantum computer. With this, IBM is also sending out a message to previous users of the experimental cloud service. In connection with this service, IBM has also made a suitable software development kit available. This could accelerate the availability and new development of applications for quantum computers and thus give rise to specific customer needs for the technology in the short to medium term.
Microsoft Corp (US5949181045)
Microsoft's rise to become a global technology giant was closely related to the introduction of the first generation of personal computers. Over the past 15 years, however, the Group's business development could be described as disappointing. The loss of market leadership in operating systems for end devices, which Android had to cede to Google, steadily declining sales of PCs in the classic sense and the ultimately unsuccessful establishment of an operating system for mobile end devices caused disappointment among investors and led to the loss of the strong market position in the early 1990s. In this regard, it is hardly surprising that Microsoft is heavily involved in researching solutions for the “quantum age”. A lack of software for quantum computers could prove fatal for the company. Since 2014, the innovation culture of the new corporate management has included, for example, large investments in cloud technologies or augmented reality. Microsoft is also working flat out on solutions for quantum computers. In addition to building your own quantum computers, the strategy primarily also includes the development of suitable software solutions in order to be able to fully benefit from their dissemination in the event that these computers begin to be marketed, as in the case of personal computers. To support its efforts, Microsoft, like IBM, is increasingly approaching research institutions. Most recently, the company announced a cooperation with the University of Copenhagen, which plans to set up its own research center in the direct vicinity of the Niels Bohr Institute and thereby expand the university into an important center for research into quantum mechanics. While Microsoft is still keeping a low profile on hardware components on the release dates, the company would like to make progress in the development of a new programming language that will be optimized for the capabilities of quantum computers. This programming language should be optimized for the use of the Microsoft development environment "Visual Studio". In contrast to IBM, Microsoft cannot yet provide access to a quantum computer. Until this is available, the company intends to offer language programmers a simulator as soon as possible so that they can test the development steps. Compared to IBM, Microsoft is focusing much more on the software aspect of the new computer generation, while no similar progress can be made in the development of hardware components. However, should the establishment of the new programming language lead to early standardization in the Microsoft development environment and the timely completion of a powerful operating system, quantum computers could represent a success story for the company similar to that of Windows at the beginning of the PC boom.
Investors should note that final commercialization of quantum computers is years, and possibly decades, away. At the moment, research is primarily costly for companies. Due to the immense potential of quantum technology in all sectors of the economy, it can still be worthwhile to closely monitor the development progress of individual companies.
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