"Our focus is how do we use available technology to accelerate our main mission," said Biswas. "Quantum computing is an enabling technology. We're looking now at what it will let us do."
That plan follows the advice Deloitte's Schatsky is giving to large enterprises.
"I'd expect to see some meaningful commercial use in the next 10 years," said Schatsky. "We're not saying that companies will be buying quantum computers in the next 'n' years, but this is a real phenomenon that is progressing rapidly.... Companies should pay attention and should start to think about the strategic and operational implications of having this.
"I don't think it's worth a huge amount of time in the C-suite, but if [a company] is innovative and forward looking, they should be tracking this phenomenon, and if they have an R&D budget, they should allocate a slice of it to this domain," said Schatsky, noting that some banks have invested a few million dollars in quantum R&D. "I think interest is going to grow."
Dario Gil, vice president of Science and Solutions at IBM Research, has been working on quantum computing there for the last five years, though the company itself has been researching it since the 1970s.
A year ago, IBM announced it not only had a 5-qubit processor but was making it available to customers in the cloud.
According to Gil, IBM has had about 45,000 universities and companies running more than 300,000 experiments on the cloud-based quantum system. Those efforts are not designed to solve production problems but to learn how to work with a quantum machine.
"I absolutely agree that now is the right time to start thinking about quantum," said Gil. "Companies already are and they are engaging very seriously on this topic. I think quantum, for any serious company that relies on computing for their business, can't just be something that is out there on the horizon. At least one person in your organization should be thinking about what is this and what does it mean for this organization?"
He added that IBM is focused on trying to make quantum machines that can be, or routinely are, used on real-world problems in the enterprise within the next three to five years.
"We're already in that window of quantum emerging as a technology that has commercial value," said Gil. "If you were thinking about the web in the early 1990s or mobile in the early 2000s, this is analogous. Nobody would look back and say, 'I wish I had slowed down in my thinking about those technolgies. You have to start understanding about what it is and what it can do."
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