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.

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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