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Quantum computing startup IonQ lands on Microsoft's Azure

Yep, that’s the same company a short-seller is alleging is a ‘useless toy’

Quantum computing startup IonQ now has a second system available on Microsoft's Azure Quantum cloud platform, claiming it will open quantum systems to a wider audience.

IonQ announced that its Aria system is available exclusively on the Azure Quantum cloud platform. The company says this is the second IonQ system to join the Azure Quantum platform following the rollout of IonQ Harmony in late 2019 – although we must note that Azure Quantum was not even available as a public preview until early in 2021.

The Aria system was first unveiled in February this year, but access until now was via a private beta program, with IonQ claiming it at the time as the "most powerful" in the industry, based on standard application-oriented benchmarks. President and CEO Peter Chapman said that making it available to Azure Quantum customers fits with the company's goal of making quantum technology accessible and affordable at scale.

"IonQ Aria joining IonQ Harmony on the Azure Quantum platform ensures that enterprise customers and research institutions have a choice when it comes to selecting which quantum system is best suited for their specific needs," he said.

Customers seeking to start developing with quantum can purchase monthly subscription access to the system through Azure Quantum. This will provide them with consultation services, and technical support as part of the plan, according to IonQ.

Some early unnamed customers have already begun using the system to develop algorithms that mitigate risk in finance, model chemical reactions within EV batteries, and improve image classification for future autonomous vehicles, the company said.

Speaking during IonQ's Q2 results call, where the company disclosed better-than-expected results for the quarter, Chapman claimed Aria was "a computer that is over 130,000 times more computationally powerful than our previous cloud offering," and that it has achieved "a record-breaking 23 algorithmic qubits."

But is is here we enter the murky world of quantum benchmarks, and algorithmic qubits is IonQ's own proposed metric for measuring performance. This figure represents the number of qubits in a quantum computer that can be successfully used to run a selection of application-oriented performance benchmarks developed by the Quantum Economic Development Consortium.

Other quantum companies have their own benchmarks, naturally, such as the CLOPS, which IBM trotted out last year and is claimed to measure how fast a quantum processor can execute circuits consisting of coherent quantum operations.

IonQ's quantum technology is based on trapped ions manipulated by laser beams, rather than the semiconductor-based, superconducting qubits used by many other quantum outfits. It was the first pure-play quantum computing startup to go public last year.

The company reported revenue of $2.6 million for Q2 2022, compared to $93,000 for the same quarter a year ago. However, it still made a net loss of $1.7 million. Nonetheless, the results were enough to send the company stock up 31 percent, according to The Motley Fool, as they were better than what analysts were expecting.

Earlier this year, IonQ was subject to a blistering attack in a report from Scorpion Capital, which claimed the company lied about the capabilities of its quantum technology. IonQ's founders responded by claiming in return that Scorpion had a financial incentive for devaluing IonQ, and that it had become a target for "questionable stock manipulation tactics."

It's all part of the fun and games of the quantum computing industry. ®

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