Which hardware releases have been vital in advancing software development?
I would say the mulitple core technology has been advancing software development. Parallel computing, whether threads or tasks, hasn't had much attention until the recent multi-core processors (such as graphics processors).
The hardware teams may work hard at adding features that software development had to write before. Some of those include floating point processing, vectorization, cryptography and graphics.
In general, the hardware innovations don't factor much in the software development process. The requirements and design phases, as well as reviews, are the same regardless of the hardware. Software still needs to have the coding and testing phases. Increases in hardware performance will speed up the development process (such as software building and static analysis).
Another issue to look at is whether or not all the hardware features can be exploited. On the product I am working on, there is still big discussion on whether or not multiple core processor will have a big advantage over a single core. For example, there is communications (synchronization) between the cores and the issues of the cores sharing the same memory (data bus conflicts). Also the consideration of have 2 cores as 1 computer or treat the cores as separate computers.