It is interesting to me that Riccitiello would say these things, especially at an event like E3, where everything is about showing games to players through the press and getting games into people's hands. Shouldn't Riccitiello be more concerned with letting the game stand on its own rather than weasel around with a release date? If two products stand side by side and one is better than the other, people will choose the better product.
I understand the concern -- WoW is the 500-pound gorilla. RIFT has proven you can release against WoW and maintain a sizable user base and even continue to grow. Don't blame Blizzard preemptively, and don't be scared of Blizzard. Yes, the MMO market is a volatile one, and yes, the MMO market feels limited, but it's not as bad as you think. Star Wars is going to succeed initially by brand alone, and while it would be nice to release without any competition, this is the competitive sphere we live in. Release a good game, and people will play it.
On the other hand, first-month launches can ruin an MMO. Perfectly good games have released unopposed, but with a little bad press at the start, fallen flat on their backs. Riccitiello isn't a dummy, and it is a smart move to avoid as much unnecessary competition as you can, especially from Blizzard. EA just wants to pull out all of the potential problems when launching.