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I know a lot has changed and they scrapped a couple of iterations of the game since then, but I think this is significant. The strongest counter-arguments against PVP as a pillar for the game have been that EQ was never about PVP and SOE wouldn't risk losing legacy players. But based on the link above it looks like they weren't weren't too concerned about that 3 years ago.
This comes back to all the hints SOE has been giving us about how this game is not a direct sequel like EQ2 but a parallel universe - something new and different. And they're going to continue to support all three games...
Several people here have pointed out that the kind of sandbox Smedley described needs PVP to work, but we didn't have much to support it other than ambiguous statements from him on twitter. I think this info from the very conception of EQN is important and we should all keep it in mind in order to not be too disappointed if it ends up being the case on Aug. 2.