Intel has begun offering desktop PC processors with virtualization - a technology which allows users to partition a computer to run multiple different types of software simultaneously. Intel's current drive is to bring added capabilities to its platforms, as opposed to the "gigahertz race" that has characterised CPU development so far. The company will offer virtualization in only two of its Pentium 4 chips at first, but expects the technology to catch on in 2006, and become the norm by 2007 or 2008.

Virtualization is "part of our drive towards adding capabilities to the platforms versus offering broad [processor] gigahertz," said Chad Taggard, director of advanced technologies marketing, for Intel.

"Instead of going up in gigahertz, we can add capabilities that are favourable to end-users. So that's what we're doing here."

"We've got lots of different usage [models in mind] that will help virtualization on the client become very mainstream over the next several years," he said. "We think by 2007 or 2008 this will be a mainstream capability."