I think you may be on to something there... Magnepan does a lot of direct and the have a "Dealer-Direct" program now that allows you to audition at a dealer and Maggie will drop-ship. If a dealer is not logistically possible to get to, they will ship the speaker.
Many manufacturers are looking at or doing similar things. I do believe that this type of selling is going to have at least one positive and that is for manufacturers to be successful doing things this way, their reputations will need to be STELLAR or they will die quickly. Quality will need to go up, customer service will be paramount and the customer will spend a hell of a lot more time on forums such as this asking questions of us that used to be answered by sales people. The "fan base" will be the ones selling the product instead of the retailer.
Mangepan's fan base for example, has been integral to the success of their brand, and Magnepan has returned this love by continuing to support every model of speaker they have ever produced at modest cost. My MG-20's were in need of repair and they were glad to do so. Even when I decided to fix them myself, their engineering team was fully supportive even thought they lost money by doing so. Polk Audio also has that level of commitment to their products. That is the kind of service every company will need to provide if they expect to thrive by doing business on the web.