Microsoft is betting big on quantum computing — the cutting-edge field for building computer systems that are far more powerful than anything we have today.
At the Microsoft Ignite conference today, CEO Satya Nadella laid out the company’s vision for quantum computing, highlighting the potential for using these mega-powerful computers to find cures for cancer, solve climate change, and generally find answers to otherwise impossible questions.
However, in a joint interview with Nadella in the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates says that the science behind quantum computing is so complex, it eludes even him.
“That’s the one part of Microsoft where they put up slides that I truly do not understand. I know a lot of physics and a lot of maths. But the one place where they put up slides and it is hieroglyphics, it’s quantum,” Gates told the Journal.
Perhaps Gates should consult with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who famously gave a sarcastic reporter a quick crash course on quantum computing in the spring of 2016.
“Very simply,” Trudeau said. “Normal computers work, either there’s power going through a wire, or not. It’s 1, or a 0, they’re binary systems. What quantum states allow for is much more complex information to be encoded into a single bit.”
While Trudeau is on point with the basics, the actual science of quantum computing is more complicated. Google, Microsoft, IBM, and more tech companies have invested significant resources in the field, racing to be the first to bring quantum computing power to a mass market.
Indeed, Nadella tells the Wall Street Journal that quantum computing is key to Microsoft’s cloud computing strategy, where developers and businesses pay as they go for access to fundamentally unlimited supercomputing power.
“It’s a natural thing for us to be investing in because we are one of the biggest spenders on cloud computing, and we think of this as our next-generation cloud,” Nadella tells the Journal.