Dell Technologies on democratising 5G and the future of quantum computing

The CEO and his products CTO are hoping to bend the curve on the economics of 5G and make it available for everybody to benefit.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Michael Dell said he would like to think his company has been a force for good in terms of democratising access to technology and making it more available to everyone.

Speaking with media this week during the Dell Technologies Summit in Austin, the CEO and his president and CTO of products and operations John Roese, said it's important that tech isn't reserved for the elite.

"The lever that you can pull -- it has always worked -- is broad availability to the technology and so something like 5G, our aspiration, we're doing a lot of work right now. Michael specifically, we're trying to basically bend the curve on the economics of 5G by aggressively moving towards virtualisation and simplification," Roese added.

"The net result of that is If we can drive the economic model so that we can flatten that, make it less of a premium product for only the elite, but make it available to everybody -- that's obviously good for us and good for the industry."

According to Roese, it also opens up opportunities for people to change the education cycle.

"Imagine, you know, underdeveloped environments, or even populations that are literally being able to do holographic or AR-based experiences at a cost-effective level -- it changes the curve," he said.

"I was on the board when they got One Laptop per Child in the 2000s, and the whole fact of making children literate, who couldn't even read and write with a piece of technology was because we drove the cost of compute way down, we made it generally available."

Roese said Dell Technologies' goal is not to create technology for five people, in a unit volume of three, rather it's to make it available everywhere.

"And the way that we do it is standardisation, basically making it easy to consume, driving the cost out of it and making it accessible," he said "That lever spawns the innovation cycle that can actually change things like poverty, change literacy rates, and we have good evidence that when that happens, that's exactly what occurs.

"And this next cycle, trust me, we have no other goal, than broad adoption of these technologies."

Quantum computing, it could go either way

When asked during a media session what Dell Technologies was doing in the quantum computing space, Dell said "it could go either way".

"We believe the physics are sound, and something will happen in the quantum world that will be a disruption," Roese said, clarifying the company's position. "There are three conditions that have to be true before any kind of adoption."

The first, he said, is an industry-wide agreement on a quantum computing architecture, which is yet to happen with sufficient scale; the second is that quantum computing has to be made to work in the real world.

"We have huge activity going on in the industry around trapped ions, trapped charged particles, trapped photons, that work has not been done -- it is too esoteric to do," he continued.

The third is the development of a software framework and how quantum will be experienced.

"The good news is all three of those are happening, we're working with most of those companies -- I just did a bit of a tour a couple of weeks ago with most of the quantum startups in the world and they are basically on a journey that over the next, let's say five years, we will start to see incremental breakthroughs. They will be very, very narrow -- kind of like the equivalent of like vacuum tube era of technology is what's happening now," Roese said.

See also: Australia's ambitious plan to win the quantum race

Roese pointed to Google's recent announcement, and said the only thing the search giant's "breakthrough" did was create a random number generator, which is something that's never been achieved in a classical computer.

"Now it's not usable for anything yet, but those kind of breakthroughs will happen, but it will happen over a long cycle," he said.

"We are observing, we are engaged, we think this will manifest as an accelerator in the cloud that you'll do certain mathematical functions -- it will not replace your generalised compute infrastructure, probably ever, but it will be interesting over time.

"We're watching it closely, we're involved in it, but if you're worried about changing your entire IT architecture and your strategy and your investment portfolio because of quantum -- don't do that. … we will let you know -- my commitment to Michael is I'll give him two to three years notice before he has to decide to do R&D in this space and that's not happening."

Asha Barbaschow travelled to Dell Technologies Summit as a guest of Dell Technologies.


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