(SpectrumIEEE) China and the US are in a race to conquer quantum computing, which promises to unleash the potential of artificial intelligence and give the owner all-seeing, code-breaking powers. Alibaba builds their own qubits, Baidu remains quantum hardware-agnostic
There is a race within China itself among companies trying to dominate the quantum tech space, led by tech giants Alibaba and Baidu.
Alibaba is building solutions for specific kinds of hardware, as IBM, Google, and Honeywell are doing. (IBM’s software stack will also support trapped ion hardware, but the company’s focus is on supporting its superconducting quantum computers.
Baidu is different in that it is building a hardware-agnostic software stack that can plug into any quantum hardware, whether that hardware uses a superconducting substrate, nuclear magnetic resonance, or ion traps to control its qubits.
Real large-scale quantum computing remains a relatively distant dream—currently quantum cloud services are primarily used for simulations of quantum computing using classical computers, although some are using small quantum systems—and so it’s too early to say whether Baidu’s strategy will pay off.
Alibaba has worked with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, the capital of central China’s Anhui province, which currently has the world’s most advanced quantum computer, dubbed the Zuchongzhi 2.1, after China’s famous fifth century astronomer who first calculated pi to six decimal place.
China’s most important quantum scientist, Pan Janwei, also worked for Alibaba as scientific advisor.
Baidu, meanwhile, has been releasing a series of platforms and tools that it hopes will put it ahead when quantum computers eventually become large enough and stable enough to be practical.
Last year, it announced a new cloud-based quantum computing platform called Quantum Leaf, which it bills as the first cloud-native quantum computing platform in China