IBM's Billy Newport wrote an interesting article about how the development of multi-core architectures with lower clock speeds may impact enterprise Java performance:
The trend towards multicore is moving along at a fast pace. Architectures like Suns Niagara seem to be getting copied by the other CPU vendors. The architecture is basically lots of cores but low clock speed per core.
... this is going to have a negative effect on Java unless some issues are resolved soon and not just on the latest JVMs. Many customers will be deploying existing JVMs on multi-core systems and will hit these issues.
The thing about enterprise customers and buying new hardware, is that they tend to buy new hardware that makes their system run faster. If Sun, IBM or any other hardware vendor puts out a new system that actually makes their enterprise Java system runs slower, companies simply aren't going to buy it.
Chip vendors have exactly the same requirements. They know who their customers are. Putting out a new chip that results in decreased performance of code running in a managed environment doesn't make sense for them either. They want to sell more of their new multi-core chips, not fewer.
In summary, the market will ensure that the designs of new chips don't adversely impact the performance of applications. Any chip that has a negative performance impact won't sell, and therefore won't be around for very long.