Origin is to act as a social network hub as well as a place to track all your EA game purchases, explained Riccitiello to the Wall Street Journal. This functionality will be available to all users even if they did not purchase the game directly from Origin. However, Riccitiello clarified that Star Wars: The Old Republic will still be purchasable in box form via retailers; only the digital download itself will be exclusive to Origin. Presumably, other all-digital services such as Direct2Drive and Steam will not carry the game.
The full article from the Wall Street Journal is available with a subscription to the newspaper's website.
[Update: Stephen Reid posted to the official SWTOR forums: "However, even though you'll only be able to buy and download The Old Republic digitally via Origin, you will still be able to buy a retail, boxed copy of the game from your favorite retailer (and that includes online retailers who'll ship the box to you). BioWare and EA know the value many gamers place on a cool boxed product... and we're producing a cool boxed product. (Or maybe I should say 'boxed products'.)"]