MobileNation is one of 53 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2011 event taking place this week in Palm Desert, Calif. After our selection, the companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

There are plenty of companies aiming to help users build their own mobile apps, but new startup MobileNation aims to differentiate itself by offering users a fully customizable approach to mobile app development.

MobileNation’s Web-based development environment, which is launching today, gives users complete control over their app’s design, but it’s also simple enough that mainstream users can get a handle on it without any programming knowledge. The app builder allows users to drag and drop widgets to add functionality to their apps, and they can also configure those widgets to perform specific tasks.

When users publish an app, MobileNation creates a QR code (a 2-dimensional bar code) that’s readable by cameraphones with the right tag-detecting software. The QR code is then used to install the app. Users can then share the QR code with their friends via Facebook or Twitter. Support to publish apps via the iTunes Store and Android Market will come in the next few months in MobileNation’s Professional and Enterprise offerings. MobileNation Enterprise will also allow users to deploy the builder environment on their own servers.

For now, MobileNation is available for free. Users can create unlimited app projects, and they receive 5 megabytes of content to store. Right now users can only publish HTML5 apps — meaning the apps aren’t native to their phone’s operating system. They will look and feel like normal mobile apps, but they’re technically very polished web apps optimized for mobile use. Still, for many users that will be all they need.

Competitors include companies like Red Foundry and MobileRoadie. MobileNation’s free offering and extensive customization options will likely help it to stand out from the crowd.

MobileNation was founded in 2008 by Tod Pedler, CEO of CentricMinds, an Australian web content management company. The company currently has six employees, and Pedler has pumped in around $500,000 of his own money into it.

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