Exclusive: IBM achieves quantum computing breakthrough

IBM has created a quantum processor able to process information so complex the work can’t

IBM has created a quantum processor able to process information so complex the work can’t be done or simulated on a traditional computer, CEO Arvind Krishna told “Axios on HBO” ahead of a planned announcement.

Why it matters: Quantum computing could help address problems that are too challenging for even today’s most powerful supercomputers, such as figuring out how to make better batteries or sequester carbon emissions.

Driving the news: IBM says its new Eagle processor can handle 127 qubits, a measure of quantum computing power. In topping 100 qubits, IBM says it has reached a milestone that allows quantum to surpass the power of a traditional computer.

  • “It is impossible to simulate it on something else, which implies it’s more powerful than anything else,” Krishna told “Axios on HBO.”

How it works: While traditional computing uses ones and zeroes and can try many possibilities in quick succession, quantum computing hones in on the right answer, making it well suited to tacking complex problems.

  • “Can it solve every problem? No,” Krishna said. But, at the same time, he said you can’t do the work that this computer can do on a traditional machine. “It would take a normal computer bigger than this planet to be able to do that.”
  • Krishna has been bullish that quantum computing can establish an important place in the computing world within a few years, while others believe it could take a decade to establish a significant role.

Yes, but: The arrival of quantum computing also poses a unique problem. Much of modern cryptography is based on hiding data in a way that it would take modern computers too long to crack. But, with their different approach, quantum computers will be able to break many of today’s encryption systems.

The big picture: Krishna acknowledges that IBM hasn’t had the financial performance of other tech giants and, as a result, hasn’t seen its valuation soar the way that companies like Apple, Facebook and Google have.

“In the long run, it comes back to investors care about: ‘Is your revenue growing, and is your cash flow growing?’ And for many years, we have not shown either of those. So that’s why we have turned into committing that we are going to grow and we are going to grow cash flow as well, not just revenue. If you have both those things, I believe investors reward you.

— IBM CEO Arvind Krishna, on “Axios on HBO”

Krishna says the quantum computing push is one part of his approach to return the company to growth.

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