Microsoft eyes the future with quantum computing programming language

During its Ignite 2017 keynote, Microsoft showcased a number of short-term announcements centered around the likes of Microsoft 365, commercial Windows 10 S machines, and more. However, the company also tipped its hand a bit more on one long-term, industry-wide bet: quantum computing.

Microsoft has been working on aspects of building a quantum computing ecosystem for some time, but today it announced one of the first practical applications for developers, a quantum computing programming language. The language will be "deeply integrated into Visual Studio," Microsoft says, so you won't need to be a quantum computing expert to use it. In the short term, code from the language will run in a quantum simulator. However, in the future, programs built with the programming language will be able to run on actual topological quantum computers. From Microsoft:

The system, which will be available as a free preview by the end of the year, also includes libraries and tutorials so developers can familiarize themselves with quantum computing. It's designed to work at a higher level of abstraction, so that developers without quantum expertise can actually call quantum subroutines, or write sequences of programming instructions, working up to writing a complete quantum program.

Quantum computing is seen as the next big frontier in computing, as it would theoretically enable incredibly fast calculations for things that would take years, centuries, or even, Microsoft says, "the lifetime of the universe" to calculate with even the most advanced examples of our current technology. That could open up doors to solving extremely complex problems involved with healthcare or energy, for example. One immediately tangible impact it could have, Microsoft says, is in drastically speeding up the time it takes to process an AI training algorithm.

We're still far away from quantum computing hitting any mainstream use. However, if you're a developer, you can sign up to participate in Microsoft's quantum language preview now.

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Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl