Subsidise? I didn't say anything about that, I was merely making an observation. Yes of course it was the customers buying the products that kept Apple going, but without the distributors that could not have happened.
I'm not sure I can agree with that. Apple did rely completely on resellers but that's because it didn't have internet sales or its own retail stores. There was really no other option. Frankly the retailers didn't do a great job (on the whole) of making Apple's product look desirable. They were often pushed to the back of the store to rot.
As for being ruthless that is part of any for profit company's DNA if they wish to survive. One of Jobs first commands upon returning as interim CEO of Apple was to end all Mac clones. This wasn't Apple being dick for dick's sake, but Apple trying to survive. Where they dick? From the cloner's PoV, most likely. Was Apple right? Absolutely!
Again, I was making an observation rather than a criticism. Business sectors come and go, and the advent of the online store now coupled with the Apple stores have made resellers increasingly redundant. As to your comment about retailers, there were Apple specialists who only sold Apple stuff and they were, in my experience, good places to go.
I have tried to shop at an Authorized Apple Reseller since 1986 and every time I went in the shop for the past two and a half decades, I was treated like it was a privilege to be allowed in the store and have a person sell to me. It was the worst experience shopping so I turned to Apple's online store and was thrilled that Apple opened their own retail stores. I love the Apple experience and hope these greedy resellers go under as soon as possible.
Personal experience I suppose, the specialist resellers I used always gave good service.