g.ho.st IS the machine 

New startup company forges Israeli/Palestinian partnership

It's the same old routine: Make coffee, get kids ready for school, check news for any traffic jams.

Hmm, what's this? Overnight rocket attacks have caused the government to close the bridge into town until further notice?

Damn, and I had a great joke from Leno to tell the guys in the break room. I'll just have to tell them over the video link.

That's a very real possibility that workers at g.ho.st, a company based near the border of Israel and Palestine, have to confront. With employees from both territories, regular face-to-face meetings are set up weeks in advance. Palestinians have to apply for permits from the Israeli army to cross the border, and that can take at least a week. Imagine if you had to do that to cross from North Charleston to Daniel Island before you could go to work.

They've dealt with the challenge by setting up offices in Ramallah (Palestine) and Modi'in (Israel), about 20 miles apart. Video conferencing is common, and like any tech company, e-mail is abundant. To have official office meetings, they have to cross a series of checkpoints with proper army credentials and pass between openings in Israel's now infamous West Bank wall. More often, meetings are held in a coffee shop in a small gas station on the border about 20 miles south of both.

And you thought your commute was rough?

The company itself was recently one of only five startup companies from around the world chosen to present at this year's D Conference, an annual technology conference sponsored by The Wall Street Journal. This conference is a Big Deal. Before g.ho.st's presentation, the two dudes speaking before them were none other than Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. Other presenters came from Facebook, Yahoo!, and Dell.

The product g.ho.st (http://g.ho.st) demonstrated is a virtual desktop that combines pre-existing services like Google, Zoho writer, last.fm, and flickr. Basically, you can sign into any computer with an internet connection and have all your documents, e-mail, contacts, and even music in one place. There are some Flash-based games, but don't count on playing WOW or Halo3 any time soon.

The real key to what they're offering is a slick full-screen Flash interface that uses AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) for its backend server calls. That means they've achieved a consistent and effective graphical interface for complex communication with the various services, and you don't even notice. It looks like a regular Windows desktop, complete with custom desktop photos and icons, and even has a Start button in the lower left to access all the applications.

Spearheaded by CEO Zvi Schreiber, the company draws on talent from around the region. In fact, Palestinian universities graduate thousands of IT students a year. Many end up working for tech outsourcing companies in Palestine, but a lucky few find spots at g.ho.st, a truly collaborative company.

"The internet is proving that collaboration and human interaction can transcend the physical walls around us," says marketing director Rami Abdulhadi in an interview.

Words to consider next time you're feeling too lazy to get up and have a conversation with a co-worker across the hall.

Be glad you've got the option.


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