There are a number of other companies offering this kind of service, most notably Widgetbox. Cabana looks more sophisticated, though, with a richer set of 3rd party services available for integration and what the company promises is an easy way to wrap new services' APIs up for use on the platform. Compiled code is delivered in a zip file, 3rd party API-based plug-ins are easy to create and a marketplace called Cabana Exchange will allow developers to share and monetize the platform on the plug-in level.
Cabana is in closed beta for now, but is accepting requests for invites and showed off a number of dazzling integrations on stage today. Drag and drop addition of features like a camera, check-ins on services like Gowalla or Foursquare, integration of the Instagram photo API and many more things are possible.
The company has a huge challenge ahead of it, of course. The open ended nature of it, the lack of clear connection to profits for customers, while refreshing to this journalist and web lover, will make it harder for Cabana to stay financially viable than mobile publishing services that put cash more quickly into the hands of publishers. A related but different startup at the Launch conference today, for example, is the Tour Wrist travel marketing platform.
Execution of the Cabana service will be hard enough, building a community of developers around the Cabana Exchange could be even harder. There is a clear demand for this kind of light app publishing technology though. Unlike some competitors, Cabana says that it will focus on engineers building functionality that designers and marketers can then manipulate. That sounds like a stronger combination in the long run than other services that make it harder to customize the code.