Tencent Technology News, according to foreign media reports, Microsoft Corporation, which is working on the development of quantum computers, has hired a group of engineers from Qualcomm to participate in a chip development of the project.
According to people familiar with the matter, in the past few months, Microsoft has been actively recruiting chip engineers from a certain department of Qualcomm. This part of Qualcomm's main development of chips for data center servers has been significantly reduced before other companies began to dig corners from there. But Microsoft is recruiting more than other companies, and has dug out Muntaquim Chowdhury, Thomas Speier, Michael McIlvaine, Wayne Smith, and design managers Ketan Patel and Michael Underkoffler in their engineering leadership team. So many engineers were dug up by Microsoft, so that a building rented by Qualcomm in Raleigh, New York, was taken over by Microsoft. The engineering center of the Qualcomm Data Center team is located in Raleigh.
This wave of cornering marks marks Microsoft's increasing emphasis on the quantum computing beyond research laboratory and entering the business environment. Quantum computing is expected to bring about fundamental breakthroughs, dramatically increase computing power, and make great strides in dealing with computationally intensive tasks such as how analog molecules interact, helping discover new drugs, and running artificial intelligence algorithms more efficiently.
IBM, Intel and Google have invested heavily in quantum computing projects. However, building a usable quantum computer is complicated, and some researchers predict that it will take many years to reach this milestone.
“There is no artificial quantum computer yet,” said Dana Anderson, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Dana Anderson. He is a quantum researcher and founder and CEO of quantum startup ColdQuanta.
From cooperation to digging
According to people familiar with the matter, most of the new employees hired from Qualcomm are currently developing a chip, and the quantum computer that Microsoft is developing may be equipped with this chip. According to this person, Microsoft and Qualcomm have previously discussed a chip that can withstand the extremely cold temperatures required for quantum computing. This project is an extension of this discussion. And Microsoft was already working closely with Qualcomm to plan to use low-power Qualcomm Arm chips in Microsoft's cloud data center.
However, after Qualcomm encountered a lot of things, so the discussion on quantum computing cooperation has not made progress. What Qualcomm encountered included legal disputes with big customer Apple, Broadcom attempted to maliciously acquire Qualcomm, and Qualcomm still needs to cut expenses, so projects such as developing a data center server chip and Intel compete for Qualcomm. Said that the cost is too high.
By June of this year, Qualcomm's data center project had been significantly reduced, and hundreds of employees were cut. According to informed sources, there were originally 1,000 employees, and only 300 were left.
Informed sources revealed that Qualcomm's troubles gave Microsoft the opportunity to dig corners. A Qualcomm spokesperson declined to comment. A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that they were recruiting staff but declined to comment on the work of the staff.
Microsoft has a number of research and development subsidiaries, and Microsoft spent years developing quantum computing through it, but at the beginning of this year, Microsoft made a major shift: moving quantum computing projects to hardware related to its Azure cloud computing services. The team and appointed hardware executive Todd · Todd Holmdahl is responsible for the project. Holmdal has extensive experience and has helped Microsoft convert research projects into HoloLens holographic helmets.
“We believe that quantum may be the most important technology of our generation,” Holmall said in an interview with the media in December. “It can solve many problems that were not solved in the past. ”
A person familiar with the matter said that Microsoft is investing hundreds of millions of dollars each year to build hardware and software for quantum computers. Another person close to Microsoft said the figure is close to $1 billion a year. A recent document shows that Microsoft's company-wide research and development costs reached $14.7 billion in FY18.
Microsoft's unique approach
Traditional computers use transistors etched on a chip, calculated using 0 and 1, while quantum computers use qubits. In theory, a qubit can be 1, 0, or both —— this is called "superimposition".
The problem with qubits is that they are susceptible to temperature, magnetic or electrical interference, so most quantum computers must operate in environments that are many times lower than deep space temperatures. Even with expensive refrigeration equipment, it is difficult to keep the qubits sufficiently stable.
Microsoft's approach to quantum computing is more experimental than Google and other companies. Microsoft experimented with a particle called Majorana fermion, which was first theoreticalized in 1937. In theory, the quantum bit error rate created in this way is relatively low.
The talents recently vacated by Qualcomm are helping Microsoft develop a chip that is expected to become a controller in quantum computing systems. Traditional chips cannot operate at very low temperatures, so developing such chips is a major engineering feat.
In recent years, the industry's investment in quantum computing has been increasing. In addition to IBM, Intel and Google, well-funded startups such as Rigetti, IonQ and D-Wave are also building their own systems. The US government is also deeply interested in this area, and recently invested more than $1 billion in quantum computing research. The UK and Chinese governments have also made similar large-scale investments.
Uncertainty in time
One of the biggest uncertainties of quantum computers is when they can “successfully” provide significantly higher performance than today's computers.
In 2005, Microsoft set up a research team at a research lab called Station Q at the University of California, Santa Barbara. At the end of last year, Microsoft became more open when it talked about its unique quantum computing approach and how to commercialize it.
In an interview last December, Holmdar said that Microsoft plans to launch commercial quantum computers in the next five years. “It took about five years to solve the engineering problem and bring the HoloLens holographic helmet to the market,” he said. “Now we are at the stage of doing quantum computers, just like the HoloLens holographic helmet. There are a lot of things to do, but I can see how these tasks are done step by step. “
But for people outside of Microsoft, the company has a long way to go to build a true quantum computer. Microsoft has not shown that they can use the experimental particles to create useful qubits.
“Microsoft is still in the scientific research stage,” said quantum researcher Anderson. “It’s fun and good, but it’s okay for them to show that their key concepts work. In this respect, Microsoft is still in the scientific research phase, not the engineering phase. ”(Compile / Kathy)