Quantum computing could change everything, and IBM is racing with Microsoft, Intel, and Google to conquer it. Here's what you need to know.

IBM quantum computingFlickr/IBM

  • Quantum computers are an extremely exciting technology, promising the raw computing power to crack previously-unsolvable problems.
  • IBM has an early lead in quantum computing, experts say, with Google, Intel, Microsoft, and a host of startups close on its heels.

In January, IBM made waves when it announced its IBM Q System One, the world's first gate model quantum computer available to businesses - a system housed in a sleek, 9-cubic-foot glass case.

It's a major milestone for quantum computers, which had to date mostly been found in research labs. Already, IBM says, customers are lining up to figure out how to get their hands on this technology, which shows promise in fields as varied as chemistry, materials science, food production, aerospace, drug discovery, predicting the stock market and even fighting climate change.

The reason for excitement: a quantum computer has seemingly-magical properties that allow it to process exponentially more information than a conventional system. A quantum computer isn't just a much faster computer. Rather, it's an entirely different paradigm of computing that requires some radical rethinking.

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