Currently, putting a computer to sleep pretty much gets rid of any type of activity going on. But Intel is getting ready to release new motherboard designs with a "Remote Wake" feature that will enable desktop PCs to retain certain functionality, even when they are in a power saving sleep mode.

This is not an entirely new feature, as it has been previously been available on Intel's enterprise-focused vPro platforms so that IT administrators can carry out remote updates on PCs within their organizations. For consumers, however, these new remote wake motherboards will give them a way to turn on their PCs remotely for an incoming call and to start or resume media downloads - in addition to many other potential uses.

The idea is to give people access to their PCs at all times, while cutting back on energy costs. Among the first companies to capitalize on the technology will be VoIP provider Jajah, Orb and Pando Networks. Motherboards with this new technology will ship out next month, and will require an Internet connection via an Ethernet cable - since sleeping PCs and notebooks don't leave Wi-Fi connectivity enabled.