The Google logo is pictured atop an office building in Irvine, California, U.S. August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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The hype that has been building around quantum computing, a potentially revolutionary technology that has been a dream of physicists and computer scientists for 35 years, is about to get a big boost.The two impending milestones, from Microsoft and Google, will highlight how ideas until recently at the frontiers of theoretical physics are quickly taking practical form.Despite beginning work on quantum computing 12 years ago, Microsoft has yet to produce a working qubit, or quantum bit – the basic building block of quantum machines. Microsoft has taken longer than some: IBM announced its first working qubit in 1998, and in December announced that it had lined up partners to help it develop practical applications for the technology.Microsoft's design tackles one of the biggest drawbacks in the technology. The crossover, when quantum machines out-compute even the most powerful classical systems, is known in the field as "quantum supremacy".Even if breakthroughs like those from Microsoft and Google are confirmed, meanwhile, they and other companies still face big challenges in working out how to scale up, and then program, systems that may need 1m qubits or more to solve complex problems.
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