The first step to achieving the current holy grail of computing architecture has been realized, to an extent. The D-Wave quantum computer hosted at the University of Southern California and owned by Lockheed Martin, which is also the twin to the D-Wave owned by Google, has been proven to NOT operate within the laws of conventional physics.
While not explicitly stating that the D-Wave is operating on a quantum level, the researchers at USC have concluded that the machine is not using a computer model called "simulated annealing" and therefore could be operating either on a quantum level or with a previously unknown process that simulates this action.
What Is Quantum Computing?
A quantum computer is a computer whose architecture or design relies on a transistor analog that can hold twice as much information as conventional transistors. In a conventional computer, the transistor has two states: if the transistor is "on" it holds a "1" and if the transistor is "off," it is set as a "0."
In the case of quantum analog, or "qubit," the state can be BOTH "on" and "off." This ability to hold both positions simultaneously allows for a significant increase in computing speeds when compared to simple transistors and existing computer architectures.
The only drawback, and it is a significant one, comes from the quantum state itself; the act of reading the information from a "qubit" causes the information to "decohere" or revert to a conventional transistor mode that allows for only a single "on" or "off" state. The decohesion issue is the stumbling block for dream of quantum computing that the D-Wave has reportedly been able to bypass.
What Does This Mean For Everyday Computing?
At this point in the development cycle of quantum computing, this development means very little for the average computer user. The initial wave of quantum computers will be larger systems and supercomputers meant for use with climate modeling and other data intensive systems.
In the long run, quantum computing will allow for the increase in speeds on more basic systems while not incurring the increase in heat that accompanies the smaller and more tightly packed transistor systems.