IBM has unveiled a standalone commercially viable quantum computer in an effort to reinvigorate its brand reputation and drag its share price out of the doldrums.
The US-based technology company said it had built the first 20 ‘qubits’ ready for a quantum computer, the Q System One.
While standard computers store information in ‘bits’, having either a value of 1 or 0, quantum computing uses qubits, which can represent both 1 and 0 at the same time, radically increasing performance.
In theory, the computing power of a quantum computer is thousands of times greater than even conventional supercomputers, enabling IBM to conceivably pull ahead of its rivals.
Yet, despite its ambitions, the announcement will not restore the fortunes and brand image at IBM in a hurry.
The reason being that despite being promoted as commercially viable, researchers say IBM’s quantum computer is closer to a prototype design given that, to be fully functional under quantum mechanics, computers require 50 qubits, at 20 qubits IBM’s quantum computer falls short, prompting major investors to be sceptical about the breakthrough.
Also, IBM has experienced a decrease of 15% in revenues since 2014, rendering quantum computing a crucial investment that is highly dependent on public opinion.
While quantum computing may appear at this stage to be a work of science fiction, rather than science fact, any association with a commerce-ready cutting-edge technology will help boost IBM’s consumer brand perception, which is crucial to any brand’s survival.
Even though quantum computing is so far not the promised breakthrough IBM claim it is, it is also likely to play an important role in the company’s long-term future from which it may yet reap benefits.
The boost in computing capability that advocates say quantum computing can deliver is substantial, and this announcement may help to position IBM, in the minds of early adopters, ahead of the competition.
Also, IBM knows that any success in this field could see it take the lead in the computing market.
There is also the matter of IBM’s share price which has weakened in recent months.
Negative reactions to investment choices, low business growth and poor revenue streams have contributed to a 20% fall in IBM’s share price over the past three months. which may have prompted the need by IBM to make public its quantum computing news in a public display of its credentials thereby reminding shareholders of the company’s earning potential.
But there is other bad news, in the cloud technology business, IBM continues to lag behind its competitors. IBM comes last as a provider of public cloud services among the big tech firms, with Amazon, Microsoft and Google holding the three first places.
If IBM is to restore its share price the company will have to recapture investor trust as a first priority. A huge technological breakthrough has the potential to achieve this goal, but much work remains to be done before the quantum computer can become the commercial success story IBM would want it to become.