Rooting an Android device is often associated with installing third party ROMs. And while that is a step in the process, you could simply root your device and keep the stock firmware installed and running. Those who root without using third-party ROMs likely do so for a variety of reasons. One of those is for backups. But it seems there is now some discussion about running CyanogenMod without root.
This topic was recently brought up by Steve Kondik. In a Google+ posting he talks about how many of the 'root required' types of apps can actually be done without the need to expose root. Or perhaps more important, he talks about how they can be done in a very secure way without the need to have root.
Aside from backups, root can also be used to get something like Google Wallet working on an unsupported handset. Kondik mentions a few other reasons to need root as being the ability to manage the DNS resolver, tweaking the sysfs notes to control the kernel and even to mess with firewall and network software.
Perhaps key here though, Kondik talks about how "all of these can be done without exposing root, and they can be done in a very secure way." With that in mind, it looks like there has been talk of pushing things to a point where root is no longer needed. Of course, we should make it clear that a root-free version of CyanogenMod is not currently in the works. At the moment Kondik simply mentions how he is "interested in building framework extensions and APIs into CM to continue to abolish the root requirement."
On the flip side though, what has recently gotten underway is work on CM10.2 (Android 4.3). It was confirmed the work began last week and more recently we got a "general order (not a steadfast rule)" timeline that showed work will proceed with Nexus, Qualcomm, OMAP, Tegra 3 and then Exynos devices.