Will your next phone be a PC?

That's what Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) seems to be thinking, as the chip giant rolls out an interesting new feature in some of its system platforms. Computers with these chips could wake up in a heartbeat to let you answer Internet-based phone calls -- even if you had placed the system in standby mode.

The basic idea is not new. Motherboards have come equipped with "wake on call" features since the 1990s, but it was always a rather limited technology. It takes a while to wake a sleeping desktop, and the technical know-how you'd need to set your system up for wake-up calls made it a rarity. The new solution is supposed to be different -- easier to use, and quick enough on the draw to let you answer a VoIP phone call before the caller hangs up. There's software on the system level that lets the network run before the entire computer shakes loose from its beauty rest.

Why not just keep the computer on all the time? There's a power bill to pay, wear and tear on the poor components, and nobody wants a box full of whirring fans causing a racket all night. So if you're going to convert your home to all-VoIP calling, this technology certainly sounds useful. Intel isn't locking you in to just one phone service provider, with launch partners like Pando and Jajah, who in turn power the voice-calling features of Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) Instant Messenger and Gizmo5, among others.

The advantages go beyond phone calls, too. Another couple of early partners are Orb and CyberLink, which make software that gives you access to your digital media anywhere you want it. With this wake-up tech, you can call up some Muskrat Love from your home system, even if you're in a hotel room in Hanoi and Orb's servers haven't cached your favorite gurgle solo. Mmmm.

Intel says that it wants the PC to become a media hub for your whole house, which reminds me of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox 360, Sony's (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation 3, and others -- just attached to a wake-up call service. If this is a hit, support for eBay's (NASDAQ:EBAY) Skype can't be far behind.

Will media-center PC sales move Intel's very large needle? Not by much, no. But it's nice to see that the big boys are still working on innovative technologies. I own shares in archrival Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE:AMD), and even so, I'm impressed with Intel's idea hunger.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns a few AMD shares but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like. Foolish disclosure runs its own media network on Orb.