Rather than entirely cutting out the middle man, we have rolled two middle men into one new type: the publisher-distributor, also known as the app store. Indie producers, a selection of publisher-distributors and consumers. Those channels are important, but it is also important that we have more than one of them. Fortunately, we are headed in that direction:
All of them are slightly different, and focus on different content, but they are all publisher-distributors. For now, they are all tied fairly tightly to a single technology platform, making our digital ecosystem a collection of walled gardens. Back in the early days of the internet, that's the way domestic service providers worked, too, until they were overwhelmed by the sheer pace at which the open internet generated new content, new experiences and new functionality.
Will these publisher-distributors go the same way as the service providers of the fledgling internet age? Maybe not for a while, specifically because they are drawing on the innovation of all the indie producers who sell their wares over the app store channels. They are, in that sense, "open at one end", funnelling content from everywhere down into a closed, locked box, and keeping the untrusted users on the other side of those locks. For a while, at least, I think that's just enough openness to stay afloat while retaining enough lock-down to provide a consistent experience.
Mokalus of Borg
PS - I don't think it can last forever, though.
PPS - Something else will outdo them.