New Intel chipset could awaken the PC as phone

Chip will allow people to receive phone calls on their PCs even when the machine is powered-down.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

Intel's remote wake-up chip could finally turn PCs into phones.

One of the biggest drawbacks of current PC-based Internet phone services like Skype, which allow people to make phone calls from their computers over the Internet for free or for reduced fees, is that you can't receive calls when the computer is turned off. But that is changing with a new chipset introduced by Intel Thursday that allows computers to wake from "sleep" to accept calls and do other tasks like accept downloaded content.

Intel has teamed up with JaJah, a California-based voice over IP start-up, to allow JaJah users to receive calls on their PCs when their computers are in "sleep mode."

"The Intel technology turns the PC into a PBX for the home," said Trevor Healy, CEO of JaJah. "With the JaJah soft client you can plug in any USB-enabled phone and start receiving inbound calls anytime."

The deal with Intel also means that JaJah technology will come already configured into certain PCs so that users don't have to download any software to make Web calls. This makes it different from other PC-based IP telephony services, like Skype, which require users to download a software client. Jajah provides users with local phone numbers and routes calls over the Internet to allow users to call any fixed or mobile phone anywhere in the world for a fraction of what they would normally pay.

JaJah was the first telecommunications partner that Intel selected to be used with its new Remote Wake technology. JaJah with more than 10 million subscribers is small potatoes compared with the biggest name in PC-based VoIP, Skype, which boasts over 300 million subscribers. But Intel's venture arm is an investor in JaJah, pouring $20 million into the company in May 2007.

That said, Intel said that the Remote Wake technology could work with any VoIP service.

"Intel Capital invested in JaJah, so this extends that relationship," said Joe Van De Water, Intel's director of consumer product marketing. "But the Remote Wake technology is open. There is a software development kit. So there's no reason that other VoIP providers like Skype couldn't use this."

Skype didn't respond to requests for comment.

While Remote Wake could make it easier to use a PC as a phone, it could also help make online video services work more efficiently. Orb Networks and CyberLink, two online content services, are also working with Intel to use the technology to work with their services so that songs, photos, videos, or other content can be downloaded onto PCs during off-peak hours. Intel is also hoping to work with PC services that do remote back-up or security updates so they can use the technology to offer their services during off-hours when there is less congestion on the network.