Intel's Vanderpool virtualisation technology will arrive on desktop PC processors several months before originally planned, the company has just announced.

Vanderpool Technology, or VT, is part of Intel's recent move away from clock speeds as the measure of processor performance and quality, and instead provide users with other benefits. VT will allow users to create virtual environments on their PCs in order to run separate operating systems on the same PC.

For example, it could permit IT managers to upload patches or upgrades to one portion of the PC while the user runs their work applications on another environment, said Bill Kirby, Intel's director of desktop platform marketing.

Intel will build support for VT into the chipsets that it plans to release around the middle of 2005, but it hadn't planned to activate that technology in processors until 2006. This is around the time Microsoft is expected to release its long-awaited update to the Windows XP operating system, codenamed Longhorn. At last September's Intel Developer Forum, president Paul Otellini said that VT would not become a mainstream technology until operating system support was available.

However, since that time Intel has worked with many independent software vendors on products that don't require operating system support to make VT an option for home or business users, Kirby said. Those products will be ready from companies like EMC subsidiary VMware later this year, and VT will work with existing operating systems as long as a PC is using application software that has been optimised for the technology, he said. Software developers can get started on products that support VT by downloading a new specification from Intel's website.

Intel declined to say which of its forthcoming desktop processors will support VT, but the technology will either arrive as part of a planned upgrade to the company's Pentium 4 processors, expected in the first half of 2005, or with the Smithfield dual-core desktop processor, expected in the second half of the year.

Virtualisation technology is more commonly used in server environments. Intel's Itanium 2 processor will receive Vanderpool technology this year, as previously scheduled, while its Xeon server chips won't get VT until 2006, Kirby said. The company's Centrino mobile technology will also ship with VT in 2006, he said.

Intel will disclose more information about VT and some of its other upcoming technologies, like LaGrande security technology and Intel Active Management Technology at the company's upcoming Intel Developer Forum in March.