I think as plain Joe User you don't need autoconf installed in order to compile software. The configure script is all shell only.
You might need it if you try to compile CVS releases which Joe User in general should avoid for they are mainly targeted at developers.
However, most people that just want the software ready in a few steps do better with downloading a binary distribution. The source is for those who want to customize their package; those people (like me) like fiddling with Makefiles and are willing to invest a bit of time.
I think the current system is just fine.