I mentioned this over here today as well, and the forums are still heated from the thought of Jedi having armor. I think the whole thing is not only interesting, but something that really does level the playing field for a leveling or unfiinished toon.
But after I stop laughing and went in search of other Star Wars news I found this. This interview is definitely a case of explaining a few things about The Old Republic. First, while TOR will be a MMO, it will have a beginning and end. The reason I can confidently say that they make quite a few references to playing through it again, which isn't something you can do with a traditional MMO. Also in order to be a story driven MMO it means the story has to be in place before the character is created, which means start to finish. Now while I am sure there will be a strong drive to character progression, it is obvious that alot of this game is still in Alpha or conceptual production. If you check the website, you can see they have only released info on a few of their classes and planets, and from the interview it seems they are planning the planets to have a story feel.
Now with that said, I really don't think TOR will be a challenger to Galaxies in the means of being a new MMO. I think it will be a fun game, and I hope it succeeds because we need good Star Wars games, but comparing the two will be like comparing Galaxies and the TCG. Both have the same source material, but they are still two separate games.