I'm not sure I agree with the conclusion, stated in the State of the Market Report, that "...manufacturers are jumping on the lightweight bandwagon..." because "...it provides a new niche for cottage companies to differentiage themselves as leaders in the field." I think most cottage companies become manufacturers of lightweight backpacking equipment because it's something they are passionate about personally, and can't find the stuff they want at prices they want to pay. I guess I can maybe think of one or two who think, "Hey, this is the next big thing, and I'm going to make a ton of money." Most of the cottage guys I know are eking out a modest living at best, many have "day jobs" that they depend on to make the house payments and put food on the table.
The time lag in the major manufacturers getting on the bandwagon created a window of opportunity. When I started making lightweight backpacks, Lynne Weldon was the only other guy I know of who was also offering lightweight packs. It was cute; my Mom, knowing not much except that I made light backpacks, saw some article mentioning lightweight gear ideas. She called me up and said "There's some guy named Ray Jardine who's copying you!". I had to explain that Ray had been talking about it since way before I got interested in lightweight backpacking. Now there is a plethora of lightweight backpack options.
It remains to be seen, in my mind, whether the cottage companies can continue to survive with the big boys jumping in. The internet is somewhat of a leveling field, but if retailers ever get serious about stocking and learning about ultralight gear, I for one wouldn't expect to be in business much longer (if I depended on any income from the business). I have noticed a decrease in my sales as more options become widely available, and know of at least one cottage manufacturer who has gotten out of the business. From my perspective, cottage manufacturers benefit during the leading edge of new ideas, because the "bleeding edge" afficionados who are involved early are savvy to internet research and buying, and some may even see value in supporting quirky cottage manufacturers over more traditional brands. But early on, typically the cottage manufacturers are the only choices. When the ideas become more mainstream, and if] the gear becomes more widely available, new people don't necessarily find their way to the cottage manufacturers, and they can get their "lightweight" gear at the places they are used to shopping.
There's a story, which I will mangle badly I'm sure, but something along the lines of J.P. Morgan, when the kid selling newspapers on the street was telling him about the stock the kid was buying, Morgan went back and liquidated his portfolio, right before the crash of '29. I'm wondering if, along those same lines, when I see lightweight backpacking featured on the cover of Backpacking Magazine, it wasn't time for me to get out of the business...