I think whenever we like it or not, softsynths are the future, for many reasons, with all tools I got including professional studio plug ins and reverbs I see no real reason to switch to hardware.
The only problem I have have with this thread is that Immersion, you really need to stop making such broad sweeping statements as the ones above.
I have been reading this thread with interrest and there is a nice balance of insight from folks as to the tools being largley un-important to the end result, which I agree to in theory, but not necessarily practice as the instruments you choose "will" have a huge impact on the end result.
Now setting aside that this is ambient music for a second, will a guitarist "most likely" make better music with a cheap $79.00 Harmony Acoustic or if they can afford it...a $2000 Taylor? Which instrument will inspire better playing and learning?
Unfortunatly I honestly feel it is similar with synths, recording gear and so on.
Meaning that you may actually learn more and get better sounds with a real modular, than with a soft synth equivalent, or I can't find one single person in the industry who acctually thinks and belives that the Arturia, NI or GForce recreations sound anywhere close to their real world equivalents. Now this may not matter to an end user or even a listener, which in some cases is sad, but there is a quantifiable difference to the real thing VS software.
Even in plug-ins, every time I have switched to the real thing from a plug-in version the difference has been obvious. Does it stop me from using plug-ins or soft synths, no...but when given the choice I would certainly choose the real thing.
Just my opinion,
I guess my point is that while soft synths and plug-ins are here to stay and quite excellent in many cases, I don't see any proof in the industry that the real gear is becoming exctinct yet. In fact many the Boutique hardware industry is at an all time high...