In an announcement last week, IBM announced its first early access clients to its IBM Q™ commercial quantum computing system. They include: JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG, Samsung, JSR Corporation, Barclays, Hitachi Metals, Honda, Nagase, Keio University, Oak Ridge National Lab, Oxford University and University of Melbourne. These clients will explore some initial applications for use of quantum computing in business and science.
However, it should be noted that IBM is doing much more than just landing some early clients. Additional activities to develop an infrastructure and expand the base of potential clients include the following:
- Keio University, Oak Ridge National Lab, Oxford University, and the University of Melbourne will also serve as regional IBM Q Network Hubs. As these organizations work with their own industry partners, these additional organizations will be able to access the IBM commercial quantum computers through the hubs and broaden IBM’s base of users.
- IBM announced that they have exceeded over 60,000 users on the IBM Q Experience that was first established last year. The IBM Q Experience offers free access to IBM’s 5 qubit and 16 qubit machines and is oriented for mostly academic and training purposes. In contrast, the IBM Q commercial machine is available now with 20 qubits with a 50 qubit machine expected to be available in the near future. By providing a large base of potential users with a chance to learn on the smaller machines will prove a great advantage to IBM as some of these users will want to start doing production level work on the commercial machines and turn into paying customers.
- IBM will be supporting MIT’s effort to create massive open online courses (MOOCs) in quantum computing. MIT will be offering two different series of course on the Foundations of Quantum Computing and also the Applications of Quantum Computing through their edX platform. These courses will utilize the IBM Q Experience for the online labs.
- IBM announced the creation of a new group called IBM Q Consulting. This will include a team of consultants, scientists, and industry professional who will help IBM’s clients understand and provide roadmaps on how quantum computing can be utilized to help solve their complex business problems.
- Earlier this month, IBM hosted a conference on Approximate Quantum Computing: From Advantage to Applications. This conference focused on how to one could utilize modest sized quantum computers without full error correction to solve certain problems that are too big to simulate on a classical computer. Videos of the presentations from this conference are available here and many of the techniques discussed should be relevant to the 20 and 50 qubit commercial machines that IBM is making available through their IBM Q network.
So with the possible exception of D-Wave, IBM has been the most aggressive of all the other companies in the quantum industry to ramp up their marketing activities, develop infrastructure, expand their base of potential clients, and set the stage for increasing levels of commercial revenue and market share in the coming years. This certainly makes sense because quantum computing can be quite synergistic with some of IBM’s other focus areas including cloud computing, cognitive computing, data analytics, and Watson. I’m sure many of the other quantum computing companies will follow suit, but at this point it seems that IBM is working to obtain the first mover advantage.