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Quantum computer hardware
Microsoft is focusing on the development of quantum computers that take advantage of cryogenically cooled nanowires. (Microsoft Photo)

Much has been made of Microsoft’s reinvention as an open-source company, and it will continue to live up to that billing Monday at Microsoft Build as the world prepares for quantum computing.

Microsoft plans to open-source the Q# compiler and quantum simulators that it includes as part of its quantum development kit sometime in the near future, the company plans to announce Monday at Build. The idea is to help researchers and universities studying quantum computing have deeper access to these tools in order to help contribute to their development and understanding of quantum technology, the company said in materials provided ahead of Build.

Quantum computing is still pretty far off in the future, but one day it is expected to allow computer scientists to bypass the limits of so-called classical computing to reach new levels of performance. Today’s computers represent information using an amazingly complex string of 0s and 1s to represent data, but quantum computers will be able to use more than two states to represent data.

There are lots of different routes to quantum computing, and Microsoft is pursuing a distinct vision that’s unique compared to some of the others chasing this grail. Q# is a big part of this approach, because while building a viable quantum computer is hard enough, programming one is going to require a new way of looking at the world.

Open-sourcing the compiler — which takes code written by developers in a programming language and makes it run on a computer — could help budding quantum developers better understand how to write more efficient code and reduce errors preventing their applications from running. And open-source simulators could make it easier for developers to test their quantum applications before letting them fly on quantum machines, which are likely to be pretty expensive in their early days.

Microsoft is expected to provide more information about its open-source quantum projects this week at Build, where more than 6,000 people are expected to attend to hear details about a lot of Microsoft’s current projects.

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