Added Service BUILDER's sister division, Hanley Wood e-Media, has entered into a joint venture with online marketplace This new venture allows visitors to BUILDER's Web site to sign up and link to ServiceMagic's service directly from Service Magic receives more than 125,000 service requests a month from homeowners and prospective home buyers. The price per lead for home builders ranges from $35 to $50. Builders are also subject to a one-time $99 start-up fee. The close rate per lead for home builders ranges from one in 10 to one in 20 leads.

Ask the Oracle Builders that depend on J.D. Edwards/People-Soft software for accounting and construction management now have yet another new software company to deal with: Oracle Corp. The large software maker finally won its 18-month hostile takeover battle with PeopleSoft when the $10.3 billion merger was announced on Dec. 13. The Oracle deal follows the merger between J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft in 2003. As of mid-December, builders had taken a “wait and see” approach. Although Oracle says it plans to service People-Soft's existing customers, the takeover battle was clearly a diversion, and it will take a few months for the combined companies to sort things out. Don't be surprised if competitors SAP and Constellation win over a few more of the larger builders this year.

Combined Strength The creation of Sprint Nextel in a $35 billion deal by Sprint Corp. and Nextel Communications may wind up being very good news for builders, especially those who plan to use Nextel handhelds to run business applications in the field. Sprint has a strong data network, and Nextel brings added spectrum space and close relationships with business customers, especially builders. For the time being, builders can plan on running their existing gear, as the combined company says it will operate Nextel's integrated digital enhanced network for at least the next few years.

It's Official The ZigBee Alliance formally ratified a new wireless standard for networked sensors and controllers at the end of last year. The standard applies to automotive, industrial, and medical applications, but ZigBee proponents say initial products shipped later this year for the home will center around lighting, thermostats, and home control applications.