Reuters reported this week that Baidu, China’s giant e-commerce and services provider, is exiting the quantum computing development arena. Reuters reported “China’s Baidu plans to donate a quantum computing laboratory and equipment to the government-backed Beijing Academy of Quantum Information Sciences (BAQIS), a company spokesperson said on Wednesday.”
Baidu’s abandonment of quantum closely follows a similar move by Alibaba in November. Alibaba was a relatively early entrant among giant e-commerce/cloud providers into quantum computing research, placing the effort in its Alibaba’s DAMO Academy research organization. There are reports it had invested on the order of $15 billion in the effort. According to an earlier Reuters report, about 30 employees are being released with and effort under way to find positions for them at Zhejiang.
In a separate account, the South Morning China Post reported, “In March last year, Baidu and BAQIS jointly launched the country’s first quantum computing intellectual property (IP) alliance, with the goal of facilitating easier IP cross-licensing and innovation in the industry. Quantum computing is an emerging field of science that harnesses the principles of fundamental physics to solve problems too complex for traditional computers.”
There are varying opinions about the cause of Baidu and Alibaba’s abrupt quantum exits. Alibaba, for example, has had broader market and focus struggles. It was said to be focusing more on AI R&D and business issues. The fact that both Baidu and Alibaba are donating their equipment to academia, which is tightly government-controlled, also suggests China policy maybe shifting towards tighter control of quantum computing and related sciences development.