Microsoft releases Quantum Development Kit in free preview

Mainstream quantum computing may be a long way off, but Microsoft is getting developers ready now. The company today launched its Quantum Development Kit (QDK) in preview, giving developers access to a programming language, quantum simulators, and the libraries needed to start experimenting with the quantum future.

In September, Microsoft revealed its long-term plans for quantum computing, which include its new quantum computing programming language, dubbed Q# (Q-sharp). As Microsoft stated at the time, developers won't have to be a quantum computing expert to use the language. Rather, the language has been designed to be approachable. From Microsoft:

Designed ground up for quantum, Q# is the most approachable high-level programming language with a native type system for qubits, operators, and other abstractions. It is fully integrated with Visual Studio, enabling a complete professional enterprise-grade development tooling system for the fastest path to quantum programming efficiency.

Developers will be able to test code written in Q# in a dedicated local simulator included with the QDK in Visual Studio. Microsoft has also made available an Azure-based quantum simulator for testing and debugging simulations over 40 qubits. The simulators will also let developers estimate the cost of resources to run their code. A number of quantum samples, tutorials, and building blocks are also available to help developers get started.

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Quantum computing is seen as the next big frontier in computing, with the promise to "forever alter our economic, industrial, academic, and societal landscape," Microsoft says. That's due to a quantum computer's theoretical ability to perform incredibly fast calculations for things that would take years, or even centuries, to perform with the most advanced computers we have now. There are a number of challenges to overcome, including the extremely low temperatures required to operate quantum computing hardware. You can read more the challenges, and Microsoft's approach, at Microsoft.

If you're a developer curious about getting started with Microsoft's QDK, you can download the free preview now.

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