I actually believe that Steinberg recognizes the opportunity and are (or should be) preparing for the inevitable move to Linux. Their release of the VST SDK with a Linux preview early this year is certainly a good sign. Recording computers are very often single purpose machines used by people with some engineering abilities which makes them a much easier target market. The fact that Linux is the most stable and cost effective OS of the big three is the real kicker. There are significant issues that seem to be getting worse when it comes to Apple. Windows on the other hand is, well, let’s just say it’s “not the best”.
Apple has repeatedly made their new machines lack on-board backward hardware compatibility by substituting new interfaces (2 types of Firewire, followed by 3 Thunderbird iterations) and they have “bricked” many a mid to low end interface by changing their ASIO api so that older drivers no longer work. This has forced many Steinberg customers to spend money on unneeded hardware instead of software often going with expensive top shelf interfaces because the manufacturers produce their own end to end drivers. This comes at a cost to Steinberg. While Apple’s Mac Pro with OS X is a proven stable platform the cost difference compared to a custom DIY tower is significant to say the least. I own a Mac Pro and while it isn’t top shelf having “only” a 6 Core Xeon E5 3.5GHz with 1TB SSD, 128MG RAM, it still cost me over $5000.
Windows remains focused on lower cost with higher flexibility for personal and business software. Realistically it has and always will lack the key requirement for audio recording: stability under heavy stress with high throughput hardware. Although this doesn’t effect average users, Steinberg market isn’t really focused on average users but rather on niche power users who tend to increase demands to the point of failure. The main difference between Windows and OS X is that of catastrophic failure vs controlled failure. The worst thing that can happen is a crash with its consequential lost or corrupted data and Windows is simply more prone in this regard.
As a professional software engineer and long time digital audio engineer (20 years) who works with all three systems on a daily basis there is no doubt which one is the superior between OS X and Windows and it’s OS X hands down. However, I believe Ubuntu 16.04 is truly ready to compete and has the benefits of both without the flaws of either. I have been running it on a Lenovo P50 Laptop (128GB RAM, 1TB SSD, i7-5500U with 4MB Cache/ 3GH) for almost two years. I run it hard and fast and it is more stable than the Mac Pro, which is very stable.
Ubuntu is clearly leading the way in usability with Debian cutting the path forward. I find it far more user friendly than Windows and far more flexible than OS X. Ubuntu is in my opinion ready for the first serious professional audio recording software to make the move. From a business perspective this first mover advantage should not be underestimated, especially at the higher end of the market where the Apple appears to be having significant problems with hardware limitations (e.g. pathetic 2017 MacBook Pro max of 16GB RAM).
Although hardware compatibility with Ubuntu is limited there are quite a few Firewire devices that already work. The drivers come purely from the community and some companies like UAD with their Unison technology would need to also port their software to take full advantage. That is a chicken and egg problem that will only be solved by adoption which requires a major DAW to port first.
Bottom line, in the questions of cost and performance Linux is the hands down winner and is primed to take over the market for high performance audio recording. Whichever amongst the top DAW providers capture this market may very well be the most significant player in the field in a few years. My preference is to see Steinberg there.