Intel has started shipping its first desktop processors equipped with virtualisation technology.
The Pentium 4 models 672 and 662 are available in systems from Acer, Founder, TongFang and Lenovo.
Virtualisation allows a system to run multiple operating systems simultaneously in separate containers or partitions.
Enterprises are set to benefit most from the technology at present, according to Chad Taggard, Intel's director of advanced technology marketing.
Virtualisation will allow IT departments, for example, to create separate partitions on an employee's system that allows them to upgrade the machine while still in use.
Virtualisation on the desktop could also offer better security for applications. An application running in a separate partition prevents a hacker from entering the system through the browser and then moving onto a corporate database.
It could also be used to create a temporary partition for a browser which gets erased every time the users closes the application to get rid of any spyware and worms downloaded in that internet session.
In the consumer market the PC would be equipped with a partition that acts as a home media server, storing music and video files that can be accessed throughout the home. Virtualisation would allow the server to operate independently from other applications.
Applications for consumers, however, are likely to take several years to develop, wheres enterprise applications can be expected next year.
Intel's virtualisation technology was formerly known under the codename Vanderpool. It requires software such as the open source Xen project, Microsoft Virtual Server and VMWare.
Intel started shipping Xeon server processors with virtualisation technology last month. The Centrino laptop chip and high-end Itanium processor are expected to follow by mid-2006.
Intel's main competitor, AMD, has a comparable technology dubbed Pacifica. It is expected to start shipping in processors by early 2006.