Indeed, they definitely made a good decision in distancing the game from FFXI so it didn't feel like a complete retread. At the same time, they also raised a lot of excitement by making the characters familiar to players of FFXI.
Overall, I'd say SE has possibly made a slam dunk of a game for FFXI players if they can execute it right.
Not just for FFXI players. SE has an incredible opportunity to take those things that worked very well in FFXI (ie. lore), adapt it around what a more developed MMO community has come to consider necessary for a good MMO, and throw in some new innovation that could potentially drop other MMO developers (including Blizzard) on their respective ears, and that's exciting news for any MMO gamer whether you play/played FFXI or not ;D