We're just barely seeing the first powerful ARM Cortex-A15 processors in bleeding edge devices like the new Samsung Chromebook and Google's upcoming Nexus 10 tablet, but the race for higher power and higher efficiency goes on. Today, ARM's announcing the Cortex-A50 series of processor cores, which will likely feature prominently in the smartphones, tablets, and possibly even the server rooms of the future.
As of today, the new family includes two designs: the Cortex-A57, which ARM says will provide performance "up to three times that of today’s superphones in the same power budget," and the Cortex-A53, which should bring "today's superphone experience while using a quarter of the power." The new family of processors is more than just a straight efficiency improvement, though: they also use ARM's new 64-bit ARMv8 architecture. ARM's calling the Cortex-A53 the world's smallest 64-bit processor. They're compatible with 32-bit ARM applications as well. Also, like the Cortex-A15 and Cortex-A7 before them, the A57 and A53 can appear together in what ARM calls a big.LITTLE configuration, where the weaker A53 can handle most tasks and the A57 only kicks in when needed for heavy-duty workloads, for greater overall power efficiency.
As always, it's worth noting that ARM doesn't actually make physical chips, it only designs the intellectual property, so we won't be seeing the A57 and A53 anytime soon. Partners like AMD and Samsung have to design the rest of the chip and get it produced at a foundry, and that can take a while. Just like the Cortex-A15, which took two years from announce to availability, these new cores should appear in chips from partners around 2014. Yesterday, AMD announced that it would build server chips with new 64-bit ARM cores in that same timeframe.
Other companies, like Qualcomm and Apple, likely won't use the A57 or A53 at all, since they've committed to designing their own ARM-based processors for their Snapdragon, A6 and A6X silicon.