Web services are in fact the next version of DCOM/CORBA/RMI, but as is the case with any new technology that attempts to replace an existing technology, there better be benefits for the transition to be worthwhile. Cross platform interop and the level of loose coupling that is provided by building services that make SOA a reality certainly go a long way in making the transition justifiable. There are other benefits too.
I'm not a fan of working in the DOM or whatever XML API you want to use when I know my data is better encapsulated in a class with custom methods to meet my data's needs. Sure there are cases where an XML transform is the best way to manipulate your data, or when you just don't know the structure of the XML being sent to you, but I would say that these situations are few and far between compared to the situation where you know the structure of your data exactly, or at least have a handful of different, known structures that may be coming in. The point is that the data has structure that you know about, why build flexibility to have other data included, when your code and data tables were created for the data you are expecting?