IBM reveals 50 qubit quantum computer prototype

The researchers at the IBM Q lab have been busy this year; back in May they revealed a quantum computing platform with a 17 qubit processor, and now they've already topped that by a huge margin. The company has announced that they've developed an operational 50 qubit prototype processor, as well as a 20 qubit quantum system that will be available to its clients as a cloud service.

While the 50 qubit machine is certainly exciting, as it sets a new milestone in quantum computing, even outdoing Google's 49 qubit processor that's in development, it won't be commercially available for some time. But IBM is also very excited about the 20 qubit quantum processor that will be available to customers before the end of the year.

The machine will allow users to perform "high-fidelity quantum operations" with an "industry-leading" 90 microseconds of coherence, IBM's press release says. Once it goes online in the coming weeks, the company notes it will continue to be improved throughout 2018.

Of course, the purpose of this technology isn't to improve classical consumer computers; quantum computers are designed to run calculations or specific types of programs, such as algorithms designed to break encryption, at speeds unattainable by a standard desktop machine. Instead users connect with these advanced machines using their regular computers, such as through IBM's cloud systems, to perform their calculations.