"Phyllis! Get me one of those interoffice mail envelopes!"
It was just after lunchtime on Jan. 15, and Peter Hortensius was storming through the cubicles at Lenovo Group's offices in Morrisville, N.C., shouting for his secretary. Hortensius, senior vice-president in charge of laptops, had just heard that Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs had unveiled the supersvelte, aluminum-clad MacBook Air by declaring it the "world's thinnest notebook" and dramatically pulling it out of an interoffice envelope. Lenovo's ThinkPad X300 notebook was due out in February, after a year and a half in development, and Hortensius was alarmed that it could be upstaged before it even made its debut.