29 September 1997, “Quantum Information Questions”
I think I'll answer your questions somewhat out of the order in which you asked them. I hope you don't mind: it may fit what I'm thinking more closely that way.
Bakercise 1:How important do you think these papers are to Quantum Information and the quantum technologies (computing, communication, cryptography and teleportation)? Are they a major step forward? And if so, why?
In my opinion, the Holevo–Schumacher–Westmoreland (HSW) result was the most technically difficult one in Quantum Information Theory to be proved last year. In the long run, the papers are certain to be classics. As far as importance goes, it was certainly one of the top two results (the other being a consortium of papers to do with fault-tolerant computation on quantum computers).
The HSW papers solve a long-standing problem that was on Holevo's mind as early as 1978. Holevo actually had a paper conjecturing this result in 1979, but somehow it escaped all of our attention until Richard Jozsa and I met him last September in Japan. He told us of the old paper then. (I've done a citation search since then, and, believe it or not, this paper had only been cited five times in its life.