We are now starting to see more and more relationships between established classical computer companies and quantum startups. Recently we’ve seen Microsoft ink cloud partnerships with IonQ, Honeywell, and QCI; Amazon announce partnerships with Rigetti, IonQ, and D-Wave; and Atos start working with Zapata. There are good reasons why these classical/quantum relationships are forming and we predict there will be more in the future.
One thing that is an important element for success in the computing business is establishing and retaining customer relationships that builds trust so that the vendor and end user work together in solving problems. Many of the classical computing companies have spent decades doing this and will have a long record of successful program executions and a very large rolodex of key individuals up and down the chain at their multiple customers. But many of the classical computing companies don’t have strong quantum technology because they’ve been so focused on constantly improving their classical computing capabilities.
On the other hand, the quantum startups may have the technology, but not the customer contacts nor a long track record of successful customer programs. So it is very difficult for them to approach large, conservative enterprise companies as a new startup and gain their trust. It is particular difficult at this stage of the technology because there are so many different quantum technologies, incompatible software platforms, and lots of hype and these things will make the enterprises extra cautious. These enterprise companies will see lots of claims, but can’t really tell which ones will turn out to be true. One thing that worries them is that they make a large investment in a particular quantum technology or approach that ultimately turns out to be a dead end.
IBM is perhaps the one company that has both internal quantum technology and enterprise sales expertise for complex systems. But even they realize that their technology can cover all the bases, particularly in software and applications, so they established the IBM Q Network and have partnered with several quantum software startups. And while Google has certainly been very successful selling ads for their search engine, they have nowhere near as much experience installing large complex systems at customer’s sites.
Since most of the quantum algorithms being developed are hybrid classical/quantum solutions that require both capabilities, an additional advantage for the classical computing companies is the ability to sell even more classical computing products and services for use with the quantum products and services.
So what’s next? There are still a few large classical computing companies that still have no discernable quantum computing programs. Examples include Dell, HPE, Lenovo, and Oracle. We do believe that these companies will decide to get into this market in one way or the other. But we’ll have to wait and see what form their quantum activity will take and when they decide to do it.
December 7, 2019