Judging from a quick perusal of the Internet, my hastily written post up above confused some people. My apologies. The point I was trying to make was that 3.3.3 BM seems pretty close to SV in a lot of cases. We're not going to know more until we see more humans and fewer spreadsheets try it out. Players raid SV today and can be relatively competitive on meters. Therefore hopefully players who like BM can do the same thing. Are all 3 hunter specs within 1% of each other on all gear? No, and I don't think that's a reasonable goal. We'll try to narrow the gap where we can without forcing every player to respec to the whatever the current flavor of the month hotness is or creating balance nightmares in PvP.
With my current gear, my BM spec trails a SV spec by 7.8% in potential dps. Compared to MM, BM is 13.4% behind. When I plug in the BiS gear in every slot I find BM trailing SV by 8.9% and the gap between BM and MM increases to 16.7%. I also have to add that I did not gem for anything but Agi in any of the specs so the ArP factor is reduced. I only have 426 passive ArP with my gear. Even without massive amounts of ArP, BM still is way behind MM and considerably behind SV as well.
We didn't obviously compare the gear of every hunter out there. We looked at a few different levels of progression and BM is pretty close to SV in a lot of cases. Eurytos up above thinks BM is pretty close to SV, and in fact I'll quote him in a minute. If you're a BM fan I think you can raid as BM in 3.3.3 without utterly embarrassing yourself. Are there hunters out there who can out dps you? Sure. But there would be hunters out there who could beat you even if you were both MM. Any of us can pull out parses where the Elemental shaman or Shadow priest or Blood DK is topping the meters for that particular raid and still making ICC progression. Let's assume BM and SV are 1500-2000 dps behind MM. At that level, the damage is probably close enough where skill and gear are going to have a much greater impact than your spec for most of you.
Is that acceptable for Lich King 25 hard mode? Probably not. But the guilds at that level of progression are obsessed about even minimal dps gains, and they need to be. I'm not sure we can ever balance all 3 specs of a given class to be within 100 or so dps of each other on the most challenging content given that the specs have different mechanics that produce different strengths and weaknesses on different encounters. Balance at the hardest of the hard core is different from balance at the rest of the game, and much of the community would do well to focus less on maximum dps potential with the best gear and focus more on what they themselves can do. BM in 3.3.2 was unacceptably low in PvE. I'm not sure it is now.
1) BM is still the lowest DPS at any ICC raider gear level.
2) BM still has the highest reliance on the pet for damage and suffers tremendously if it dies or otherwise cannot participate.
3) BM's raid buff is shared by Ret Pally's and Arcane Mage's and only 1 person with it is needed, whereas it's optimal to have 2 sources of replenishment and the only other prominent raiding specs with it are Ret Paladin's and Shadow Priests.
4) Survival offers higher DPS while mobile.
5) Survival has higher survivability.
1) Lowest isn't of particular concern. It's unlikely to ever be a 10-way tie. Magnitude of the haves and the have nots is more important. Subtlety, BM, Arms, Frost and Frost were so far down that it was unreasonable to expect players to raid with them. We buffed them where we thought it was safe without, as I said above, pushing every existing player into that spec or creating PvP problems. It's not a 10 way tie now, but it's closer than it was in 3.3.2, and to be fair, probably closer than it's been at any time in WoW previously.
2) and 4) are legit points in my opinion. Pet reliance is a really sticky wicket, because if we make you rely on the pet, then it's really terrible when you do lose it, and if we don't make you rely on the pet, well that pretty much kills the theme of the tree.
3) You shouldn't be brought for your raid buff. Awesome raid buffs shouldn't be a lever to get an underperforming spec (or player!) into a raid. With very few exceptions the raid buffs are not going to be so significant to make you want to take a bad player over a good one. Sometimes we're tempted to just nerf all of the raid buffs to the 1-2% level in Cataclysm just so players focus more on what's fun and less on raid buffs.
5) I'm going to downplay this one too for the simple reason that I think you guys would dismiss it if I offered it as a reason for why you'd want to play a particular spec (in PvE). Now, personally I think this is a consideration in building your character and I wish we could get more players to care about it because it would give us more tools in developing talent trees etc. You'll see the occasional non-tank who gems a little Stamina to survive fights with tons of raid damage, but for the most part players will take even a tiny dps gain over survivability (in PvE) and just blame the healers (or the designers).