There\u2019s no point in having a quantum computer if it\u2019s not smokin\u2019 fast; otherwise it\u2019s way too much trouble, what with all the subzero temperatures and instability and such. So it\u2019s always newsworthy when somebody sets a new standard for quantum computing processing speeds, even if quantum computers are far from common commercial use.\nIn this case that somebody is IBM, which recently announced its newly developed quantum computing processor, called Eagle, has broken the 100-qubit barrier. IBM\n\nFusion boldly (if clumsily) says it views Eagle \u201cas a step in a technological revolution in the history of computation.\u201d (It sounds like an algorithm wrote that sentence! Is this where you\u2019re leading us, Big Blue? A quantum future of incoherent techspeak?)\nI\u2019m being too harsh on IBM, which humbly notes that its record-breaking accomplishment wasn\u2019t the product of a brilliant insight or sudden epiphany. It was hard work, baby!\n\u201cConstructing a processor that breaks the hundred-qubit barrier wasn\u2019t something we could do overnight,\u201d IBM Fusion says. \u201cConstructing one of these devices is an enormous challenge. Qubits can decohere\u2014or forget their quantum information\u2014with even the slightest nudge from the outside world.\u201d\nSo true, which is why I mentioned the instability issue at the beginning of this post. Decoherence is one of the biggest challenges in quantum computing. As Scientific American explains, use of quantum states \u201cleaves the quantum computer much more vulnerable to errors than a classical computer would be.\u201d\n\u201cThese errors arise from decoherence, a process in which the environment interacts with the qubits, uncontrollably changing their quantum states and causing information stored by the quantum computer to be lost,\u201d Scientific American writes. \u201cDecoherence could come from many aspects of the environment: changing magnetic and electric fields, radiation from warm objects nearby, or cross talk between qubits.\u201d\nIn its announcement, IBM Fusion spends no time explaining the significance of Eagle breaking the 100-qubit processing speed barrier beyond generalizations such as \u201cour team is solving challenges across hardware and software to eventually realize a quantum computer capable of solving practical problems in fields from renewable energy to finance and more.\u201d\nThere is no inherent significance to the 100-qubit processing speed barrier, other than as a marker of progress. Indeed, IBM\u2019s Quantum Roadmap calls for a 1,000-qubit chip by the end of 2023\u201410 times the processing speed in less than two years. Meanwhile, Google, Microsoft, D-Wave Systems, Intel, Toshiba, Hewlett Packard, and many other companies\u2013along with countries such as China, Germany, Canada, the U.S., India, and Japan\u2014also are developing quantum computing technology.\nIBM has declared this the Quantum Decade, in which \u201centerprises begin to see business value from quantum computing.\u201d Big Blue is describing the early adoption phase. (I\u2019d be more inclined to call the ensuing period of mass adoption the Quantum Decade, but IBM again has neglected to ask me for marketing advice.)\nOnce quantum computing is widely deployed, expect it to be used, among other things, to:\n\nModel complex molecular configurations to accelerate materials discovery and drug development\nCombine with artificial intelligence to enable even faster AI and possibly result in the development of \u201cthinking\u201d computers\nQuickly identify the points of failure in complex manufacturing processes\nProcess natural language far faster and more accurately than existing AI algorithms\nIncrease the speed of complex financial calculations\nEasily crack encrypted data, making a mockery of your puny, classical (or is it Jurassical?) computer-based cyber defenses\n\n\nA decidedly mixed bag. But that\u2019s the thing with emerging technologies; they can be used and misused. Overall, though, quantum computing will be a huge net plus for businesses, scientists, researchers and anyone who has to quicky perform what Harvard Business Review calls \u201ccombinatorics calculations.\u201d Whenever the Quantum Decade actually begins, it will be exciting.