Nvidia is planning the official 1.0 release of its software called CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) this June. The company shipped the first alpha version with its GeForce 8800, adding a beta version of CUDA in February. Nvidia is promoting the idea that their GPUs can be used as additional CPUs when needed, greatly increasing computing power.

"People buy GPUs to do graphics but it's just sitting there in your PC most of the time," said John Nickolls, director of architecture for Nvidia, in a presentation Wednesday at the Microprocessor Forum 2007 in San Jose, Calif. "It's a wonderful high-performance massively parallel computer so we're trying to open that up a bit."

When it's not performing graphics-related tasks, the GPU can be used in parallel with the central processing unit (CPU), Nickolls said, delivering up to 200 billion FLOPS (floating-point operations per second), a measure of computer performance.

CUDA allows software developers to use the C programming language to code algorithms for execution on the GPU to perform some computing functions normally done only by the CPU. Currently it only supports the GeForce 8800 and 8600 and Quadro FX 4600 and 5600. Reportedly, applications that could benefit from this technology include those used in the fields of science, medicine, finance or other work that depends on heavy-duty processing power.