Alibaba reveals major hardware push

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Alibaba wants in on the chip business, and reports are coming in that it’s preparing a dedicated chip subsidiary, as well as its own AI inference chip.

Reuters is saying the chip could see the light of day in the second half of 2019, and that its main use cases will be autonomous cars, smart cities and logistics. No dates (even vague ones) for the subsidiary, yet. We do know that the subsidiary would make these customised AI chips.

This April, the company bought Hangzhou C-Sky Microsystems, a company that specialises in producing microchips. Back then, Jack Ma (the company’s co-founder and chairman) said China needs to be in control of its core technology and rely less on technology imported from the United States.

The company is also launching into quantum computing. Last March it was announced Alibaba Cloud and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) launched a superconducting quantum computing cloud powered by a quantum processor with 11 quantum bits (qubits) of power.

The goal of the machine is to provide its users with the ability to run and test custom built quantum codes. Alibaba's Quantum Computing Cloud Platform is the second-fastest right after IBM's own offering but neither come close to quantum computing pioneer D-Wave that claims to have built machines with 2,000 qubits of power.

The company’s veteran CEO and co-founder Jack Ma also announced that he will be stepping down next year, to make room for ‘younger, more talented people”.

Image Credit: Flickr / leighklotz