In the grueling race to build a practical quantum computer, tech companies are keeping their spirits up by loudly cheering every milestone — no matter how small. One of the most vocal competitors is IBM, which today at CES unveiled the IBM Q System One: a 20-qubit quantum computer that’s built for stability, but with some very flashy design.
IBM is touting the Q System One as “the world’s first fully integrated universal quantum computing system designed for scientific and commercial use.” But that’s a description that needs a lot of context. The Q System One may be designed for commercial use, but it’s not exactly ready for it. Not in the way you might think.
Quantum computers like the Q System One are still very much experimental devices. They can’t outperform classical computers at useful tasks (in fact, your laptop is probably more powerful when it comes to real-life computation), but are instead supposed to be research tools; letting us work out, qubit by qubit, how quantum devices might work at all.
“It’s more like a stepping stone than a practical quantum computer,” Winfried Hensinger, professor of quantum technologies at the UK’s University of Sussex, told The Verge. “Don’t think of this as a quantum computer that can solve all of the problems quantum computing is known for. Think of it as a prototype machine that allows you to test and further develop some of theprogramming that might be useful in the future.”