Microsoft releases free preview of the Microsoft Quantum Development Kit with deep integration into Visual Studio

The Qauntum Development Kit is just a part of Microsoft's plans to build a complete Quantum Computer System.

Microsoft has announced a free preview of its Quantum Development Kit to allow programmers to start coding for quantum computers. Quantum computers promise to significantly expand the computational power available, allowing humans to solve problems that would take longer than the predicted age of the universe on conventional computers.

Quantum computers are expected to boost the capabilities of artificial intelligence, improve cybersecurity, and allow for more nuanced natural language processing. Quantum computation can be deployed to tackle some of the hardest problems, including climate change and world hunger.

Image: Microsoft

Image: Microsoft

Those interested can download the kit from the Microsoft website. There are three main components, a fully integrated programming language called Q# (Q sharp), local and cloud simulating environments to test out the quantum algorithms, as well as libraries of quantum samples, tutorials and building blocks. The Q# programming language has been built from scratch to specifically work on quantum computers and has a native type system. Microsoft calls it the most approachable high-level programming language for quantum computers.

The programs written in Q# can be tested on a simulation environment on a local machine, with debugging support. For simulations requiring over 40 qubits, Microsoft has provided a cloud-based simulation environment in Azure, which helps in optimise the code and get an idea of the kind of resources necessary to deploy the solution. The libraries written in Q# are available on GitHub and are provided with the necessary documentation. The Quantum Development Kit is deeply integrated with Visual Studio, Microsoft's suite of developer tools, so programmers can start coding for quantum computers in a familiar environment.

Todd Holmdahl, corporate VP in charge of the quantum computation efforts at Microsoft said, "What you’re going to see as a developer is the opportunity to tie into tools that you already know well, services you already know well. There will be a twist with quantum computing, but it’s our job to make it as easy as possible for the developers who know and love us to be able to use these new tools that could potentially do some things exponentially faster — which means going from a billion years on a classical computer to a couple hours on a quantum computer."

The Quantum Development Kit is just a part of Microsoft's plans to build a complete Quantum Computer System, which includes the hardware as well as a full software stack. Microsoft has not actually developed the hardware for quantum computation yet, but it is an ongoing effort. Once Microsoft builds a quantum computer, the solutions developed using the Quantum Development Kit can directly run on the hardware.

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