Bull SAS (Bull) is a French computer company with a long history. From the 1960s to 1980s, Bull was merged with or in some ownership relation with large American companies such as General Electric and Honeywell. In 2014, Bull was purchased by the French IT company Atos, where it remains today. Bull was already a huge company, having dozens of patents in areas like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, transport logistics, cryptocurrency, UAVs, facial recognition, and renewables. But under Atos’ ownership, it appears that Bull is looking to expand further still.
In early 2020, five quantum computing applications for Bull published. It is more than just speculation to say that Bull and its parent company Atos want to get into quantum computing—Atos has recently created a new quantum R&D lab which relies heavily on supercomputing resources from Bull to simulate quantum computers. The project, called the Atos Quantum Learning Machine (Atos QLM), can simulate the exact execution of a quantum program. Computer programmers can write quantum programs that can be run on the Atos QLM, and which can eventually be run on any future quantum computers without changing a line. Atos is relying on their high-powered classical hardware to gain an edge in the market now, hoping that this edge can be leveraged into dominance once the first true quantum computers become available.
While Atos is not the size of IBM, it is still a powerhouse in its own right. While they may be a bit later trying to gain patent protection in the American market, this move is a reminder that quantum supremacy is anybody’s game.