How the heck can Softimage be appreciated as the (imo) Superior Application that it is when it ONLY promoted as an accessory or 'companion'?
Softimage isn't really the Superior application, each of the three apps have different sets of compromises. It's different, and I would say a smaller world; you have to be happy with what's in the box to do everything you need. Whatever app you start with, you accept those compromise and they become your vision of the world.
Some of these compromises have crippled its ability to gain significant traction. For example, being built on 1990s windows API that are now legacy, and having no SDK strategy from day 1. There would need to be years of re-write to reboot that, it's something that's deeply ingrained in the product. While you would do this , the worl would not be staying still.
Softimage has a full development team in place, and plans for the future. But let's not look at the market with rose-colored glasses and pretend Softimage is on equal footing with the other two, that people just see a demo of it to see the light, and can switch anytime. The facts are that 80% of the market is using either Maya or Max, and the rest is everyone else including Softimage. It's a very distant third (although still ahead of Houdini, I think). You have to use Softimage for what it does, enjoy it, and not fantasize about a "big three" reality that really has been "a big two" since the late 1990s.
New users or student do not have a real an equal choice to pick Max, Maya and Softmage. For one thing, it cannot be known what is going to be Softimage's position in the market in a few years, but you can rest assure the other two will still be titans. Best case, I think, Softimage will retain about the same position it has now. It may hinge on whether Maya or Max would get a ICE equivalent and if there are things you can only do in Softimage.