All I can see from the article and comments is that as no standard exists for this type of interaction (the whole labels instead of folders thing) google chose to implement it their own way.
From the article the actual mail standards IMAP or "(shudder POP)", shouldn't be used as "you get a severely compromised experience". Instead google should reverse it's decision to drop active directory support for free users. This seems to be mainly driven by the fact that the mail standards can't handle your contacts or calendars and that they are not "instant" (saw something about PUSH notifications from the server that you got new mail), only folks I know that "need" to get e-mails that fast are businesses (if my family needs my attention that fast I get a call not an e-mail).
This also gets to the paid vs free users, author writes "Google had licensed EAS in 2009 because its enterprise customers demanded it." followed by "Outlook on Windows and on the Mac still has to connect to Gmail via IMAP, and there's no way (short of buying a third-party add-on or paying $50 a year for a Google Apps for Business account) to get all of your Gmail/Google Apps data into Outlook.". Maybe I'm overlooking something but this seems like simple business sense to me, why pay another company to cover your entire user base for a feature that a particular segment of your user base wants? If recieving your e-mail 5 minutes later will cost you that much then spending less than $5 a month sounds like a cheap sacrifice.
I don't particularly care for the current state of affairs, but I find it hard to blame google in this case. They should have gotten their modifications to IMAP standardized, Am I going to hold that against them? Not really, a standard takes allot of time to get finalized and at the end of the day they are a business that needs to keep running in the mean time. Also I find it odd that one one hand the author is bashing google about open standards yet pushing active directory's sync. I'll end with this question, instead of creating active directory sync why didn't microsoft extend IMAP and build a better standard that we could all use?