D-Wave doubles down on its qubits

D-Wave doubles down on its qubits

D-Wave Systems announced today the general commercial availability of the 2000Q, a quantum computer with 2000 qubits and a price tag of $15 million.

The company's previous largest quantum computer had 1,000 qubits. The Canadian company's 1,000-quibit systems are being tested by Google, NASA and Lockheed Martin.

"We are the only company selling quantum computers, and our growing ecosystem of users and developers gives us the benefit of their practical experience as we develop products to solve real-world problems," said Vern Brownell, D-Wave's CEO, in a statement.

The D-Wave 2000Q also sports new control features, designed to improve application performance. According to D-Wave, the 2000Q quantum computer will be available for shipment this quarter.

The company also announced today that Temporal Defense Systems Inc. (TDS), a Kirkland, Wash.-based cybersecurity company, will buy the first 2000Q system.

The computer "will revolutionize secure communications, protect against insider threats, and assist in the identification of cyber adversaries and attack patterns," said James Burrell, TDS's Chief Technology Officer and former FBI Deputy Assistant Director.

A quantum computer differs from traditional computing because it does not use ones and zeros -- or bits -- and it does not process instructions or work through calculations in a linear way.

Instead, a quantum computer uses qubits, which could act as either a one or a zero. Because the system does not work in a linear way, it also can calculate all the possibilities of a problem at the same time.

Quantum computing is at the cutting edge of computer science. It's still difficult to understand. It's difficult to build and it's even difficult to test its processing power.

Many in both the computer science world and the world of physics say no one has yet developed a true quantum machine and that D-Wave is simply working toward building one.

D-Wave's executives would argue that they have.

Google, NASA and Lockheed Martin have not commented much on their use of the D-Wave systems but the fact that they're testing them gives credence to the systems' possibilities, if not their legitimacy.

"It's a cool technology that will be important down the road," said Dan Olds, an analyst with with Orion Research. "But it's still the most exotic computing out there.... This new system is a big deal."

Olds isn't convinced that D-Wave is building actual quantum machines, but he is impressed with the company's new 2000Q.

"It will definitely do until something better comes along. It's quantum enough," he said. "People who are splitting hairs over whether this is quantum or not are missing the bigger picture. This allows us to solve problems at quantum scale. Why look a gift quantum computer in the mouth?"

But for Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, the new D-Wave system isn't all that exciting.

"It's not a big deal," he said. "Companies like D-Wave are making progress, but it is my impression that we, and they, are still decades away from practical quantum computers."

Quantum computers are thought to be particularly good at massive computations and complex questions. If scientists are looking to cure Alzheimer's or cancer, or if they're searching for distant habitable planets, then a quantum machine could be very beneficial.

But for editing video and crunching numbers for the company budget, a traditional computer will still be more efficient.

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