Recently read this article and it got me thinking how much easier it has become to gear a character.
In Vanilla WOW, you had to run the same end-game 5man instances a LOT, before you had the minimum gear to even consider raiding.
Now, all you need is a bit of patience. Do your heroic dailies, TOC and crafted a couple of epics - BOOM! raid-ready in 2-3 weeks.
I think its an excellent design decision by Blizzard to let everyone keep up, but slightly behind the best of the best of gear. It makes the gear-reset with each major content patch much easier to accommodate by casual and non-raid players.