Current computers have to be fully on to receive a call, making them impractical and energy-wasters as replacements for the telephone.
The new component Intel is announcing Thursday will let computers automatically return to a normal, full-powered state when a call comes in. The computer can activate its microphone and loudspeaker to alert the user, then connect the call.
"This certainly helps the PC become a much better center of communications in the home," said Trevor Healy, chief executive of Jajah, which will be the first Internet telephone company to utilize the feature.
The first Intel motherboards with the Remote Wake capability will be shipping in the next month, said Joe Van De Water, director of consumer product marketing for Intel.
These components, which are at the heart of every computer, will most likely be used by smaller computer manufacturers. Bigger names like Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. use their own motherboard solutions, but Intel is working to supply them with the technology as well.
The four initial Remote Wake motherboards will be for desktop computers and will need an Internet connection via Ethernet cable, as Wi-Fi doesn't work in sleep mode.
Van De Water said the computer will know to wake up only for calls from services to which the user has subscribed, so computer-waking prank calls should be impossible.
Jajah, which is based in Mountain View, California, is setting itself up as a link between Web companies and the phone system. In April, it signed a deal to become the phone service provider for Yahoo Inc.'s Messenger. Jajah intends to offer the ability to wake up computers to other instant-messaging and Internet voice services, like Google Inc.'s Talk and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Live Messenger, Healy said. It will be able to wake up subscriber computers both for calls dialed with a number and for those that are directed at a user name.
A fully "on" desktop PC usually consumes more than 60 watts of power, with many models ranging into the hundreds of watts. In the so-called "S3 sleep state," they consume around 10 watts.