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AT&T Plans To Expand High-speed Fiber Network To 21 New Cities

April 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

AT&T Inc said on Monday it has plans to expand its ultra-fast fiber network and TV services to up to 21 U.S. cities, including Chicago and Atlanta.

AT&T, which is competing against rivals such as Google Inc as well as cable companies with its fiber-based product, is considering providing broadband Internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second and its U-verse television service in cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami.

Before the company can enter these markets, it must make agreements with local leaders in each city.

The services are currently available in Austin, Texas and some surrounding communities, and will be rolled out in parts of Dallas this summer, the company said.

AT&T also said it may consider expanding its reach to 100 cities eventually.

Earlier this month, AT&T announced it was in discussions with North Carolina Next Generation Network to bring U-verse with high-speed internet to North Carolina.

U-verse launched in 2006 and currently has 10.7 million combined Internet and TV customers.

 

Most Sites Have Fixed Heartbleed Flaw, Many Remain Exposed

April 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The world’s top 1,000 websites have been updated to protect their servers against the “Heartbleed” vulnerability, but up to 2% of the top million remained unprotected as of last week, according to a California security firm.

On Thursday, Menifee, Calif.-based Sucuri Security scanned the top 1 million websites as ranked by Alexa Internet, a subsidiary of Amazon that collects Web traffic data.

Of the top 1,000 Alexa sites, all were either immune or had been patched with the newest OpenSSL libraries, confirmed Daniel Cid, Sucuri’s chief technology officer, in a Sunday email.

Heartbleed, the nickname for the flaw in OpenSSL, an open-source cryptographic library that enables SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Security Layer) encryption, was discovered independently by Neel Mehta, a Google security engineer, and researchers from security firm Codenomicon earlier this month.

The bug had been introduced in OpenSSL in late 2011.

Because of OpenSSL’s widespread use by websites — many relied on it to encrypt traffic between their servers and customers — and the very stealthy nature of its exploit, security experts worried that cyber criminals either had, or could, capture usernames, passwords,\ and even encryption keys used by site servers.

The OpenSSL project issued a patch for the bug on April 7, setting off a rush to patch the software on servers and in some client operating systems.

The vast majority of vulnerable servers had been patched as of April 17, Sucuri said in a blog postthat day.

While all of the top 1,000 sites ranked by Alexa were immune to the exploit by then, as Sucuri went down the list and scanned smaller sites, it found an increasing number still vulnerable. Of the top 10,000, 0.53% were vulnerable, as were 1.5% of the top 100,000 and 2% of the top 1 million.

Other scans found similar percentages of websites open to attack: On Friday, San Diego-based Websense said about 1.6% of the top 50,000 sites as ranked by Alexa remained vulnerable.

Since it’s conceivable that some sites’ encryption keys have been compromised, security experts urged website owners to obtain new SSL certificates and keys, and advised users to be wary of browsing to sites that had not done so.

Sucuri’s scan did not examine sites to see whether they had been reissued new certificates, but Cid said that another swing through the Web, perhaps this week, would. “I bet the results will be much much worse on that one,” Cid said.

 

 

Mobile Payments Square In Trouble, Seeks Buyer

April 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Square Inc has been having discussions with several rivals for a possible sale as the mobile payments startup hopes to stem widening losses and dwindling cash, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The company spoke to Google Inc earlier this year about a possible sale, the Journal reported, adding that it wasn’t clear whether the talks are continuing.

Square, founded in 2009 by Jack Dorsey, co-creator of Twitter Inc, will likely fetch billions of dollars in a sale. Square insiders sold shares earlier this year on the secondary market, valuing the company at roughly $5.2 billion, the Journal said.

The company recorded a loss of about $100 million in 2013, the Journal said, adding that the startup has consumed more than half of the roughly $340 million it raised from at least four rounds of equity financing since 2009.

Square makes credit card readers that slot into smartphones such as Apple Inc’s iPhone.

Square also had informal discussions about a deal with Apple

and eBay Inc’s PayPal in the past, but those conversations never developed into serious talks, the Journal said.

A spokesman for Square told the Journal that the company never had acquisition talks with Google. The report also quoted a PayPal spokesman as saying that the company did not have acquisition talks with Square.

Square, Google, Apple and eBay were not immediately available for comment.

 

 

AMD Not Chasing The Sub-$100 Tablet Market

April 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Advanced Micro Devices doesn’t want its processors in low-end tablets, and is eager to avoid a battle with Intel or ARM, whose chips have driven tablet prices down to under $100.

Growth in the tablet market is driven by low-end devices and Android, but AMD’s tablet strategy is driven by Windows and high-performance machines. So AMD’s avoidance of the low end of the market narrows options for people looking for name-brand chips in low-price machines.

AMD chips are in just a handful tablet models. Those AMD chips that are available for tablets are essentially watered-down PC chips with strong graphics capabilities. But the company plans to introduce new chips, code-named Beema and Mullins, for tablets These new chips are based on a new core and designed to provide more performance and battery life.

“If we miss out on some units in the low end, so be it,” said Lisa Su, general manager of AMD’s global business units, during the first-quarter earnings call on Thursday.

AMD executives said they didn’t want to buy their way into the tablet market like Intel, which has been subsidizing tablet makers to use its x86 chips through its “contra revenue” program. Instead, AMD wants to be selective in its product mix, and focus on high-margin and high-value products.

“This idea of contra revenue is foreign to us,” said Rory Read, CEO of AMD, during the call.

AMD could go after tablets priced at $300, but won’t go under that, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.

“They are not chasing bad business,” Brookwood said.

AMD doesn’t have the financial resources to provide subsidies to tablet makers to use its chips, Brookwood said.

Though the tablet market is important, AMD is more concerned about generating revenue from custom chips and other areas, Brookwood said.

AMD makes custom chips for game consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4, which helped drive up revenue by 28 percent in the first fiscal quarter of 2014. AMD’s revenue in the PC, server and tablet chip business declined.

Addressing the wide tablet market isn’t a good idea for AMD and its bottom line, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. AMD is directing more resources out of tablets and into consoles, where there is more financial reward, McCarron said.

But it does need one or two big customers to help their tablet business, he said.

“They are being very judicious in what part of the product stack they are playing in,” McCarron said. “They are working on home-run customers.”

 

 

AT&T To Offer Smartwatches This Year

April 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Smartwatches for use on AT&T’s network will be out this year, so says one of the company’s executives.

“I think you’ll see wide-area, high-bandwidth [smart]watches this year at some point,” said Glenn Lurie, president of emerging devices at AT&T, in an interview.

The company has a group working in Austin, Texas, on thousands of wearable-device prototypes, and is also looking at certifying third-party devices for use on its network, Lurie said.

“A majority of stuff you’re going to see today that’s truly wearable is going to be in a watch form factor to start,” Lurie said. If smartwatch use takes off — “and we believe it can,” Lurie said — then those devices could become hubs for wearable computing.

Right now smartwatches lack LTE capabilities, so they are largely reliant on smartphones for apps and notifications. With a mobile broadband connection, a smartwatch becomes an “independent device,” Lurie said.

“We’ve been very, very clear in our opinion that a wearable needs to be a stand-alone device,” Lurie said.

AT&T and Filip Technologies in January released the Filip child tracker wristwatch, which also allows a parent to call a child over AT&T’s network. Filip could be improved, but those are the kind of wearable products that AT&T wants to bring to market.

Wearables for home health care are also candidates for LTE connections, Lurie said, but fitness trackers may be too small for LTE connectivity, at least for now.

Lurie couldn’t say when smartglasses would be certified to work on AT&T’s network. Google last year said adding cellular capabilities to its Glass eyewear wasn’t in the plans because of battery use. But AT&T is willing to experiment with devices to see where LTE would fit.

“It’s one thing if I’m buying it to go out for a job, it’s another thing if I’m going to wear it everyday. Those are the things people are debating right now — how that’s all going to come out,” Lurie said. “There’s technology and there’s innovation happening, and those things will get solved.”

Lurie said battery issues are being resolved, but there are no network capacity issues. Wearable devices don’t use too much bandwidth as they relay short bursts of information, unless someone is, for instance, listening to Pandora radio on a smartwatch, Lurie said.

But AT&T is building out network capacity, adding Wi-Fi networks, and virtualizing networks to accommodate more devices.

“We don’t have network issues, we don’t have any capacity issues,” Lurie said. “The key element to adding these devices is a majority of [them] aren’t high-bandwidth devices.”

AT&T wants to make wearables work with its home offerings like the Digital Life home automation and security system. AT&T is also working with car makers for LTE integration, with wearables interacting with vehicles to open doors and start ignitions.

 

Intel Looks To Android To Boost Tablet Business

April 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Its becoming more obvious lately that Intel and Microsoft are no longer joined at the hip. Intel is trying desperately to make a dent in the tablet market, and with Windows struggling on those devices, Android is where it’s at.

Intel hopes to see its processors used in 40 million tablets this year, and 80% to 90% of those will be running Google’s Android OS, CEO Brian Krzanich said on Tuesday.

“Our mix of OSes reflects pretty much what you see in the marketplace,” Krzanich said during Intel’s quarterly earnings call.

Most Intel-powered tablets running Android today use the older Medfield and Clover Trail+ chips. More Android tablets running the latest Atom processor, called Bay Trail, will ship later this quarter.

That’s not to say Intel is abandoning Windows — far from it. It’s just going where the market is today. Krzanich said he expects Windows to “grow and gain traction,” and more Intel-based tablets running both Android and Windows will be shown in June at the massive Computex trade show in Taipei.

The first Android-based Bay Trail tablet, the DreamTab, was announced in January, but it hasn’t shipped yet.

Intel is chasing ARM, the U.K. company whose processor designs are used in most tablets today, including those running both Android and Apple’s iOS.

The 40 million Intel tablets that will ship this year will give the company 15% to 20% of the tablet market, Intel CFO Stacy Smith said on the earnings call.

Intel is providing discounts and development funds to tablet makers to reduce the cost of using its chips. It’s looking for growth with the white-box Chinese tablet makers, which are expected to ship up to 130 million tablets this year.

Intel chips are available in some tablets now priced under $99, but most will be priced between $125 and $250, Krzanich said.

Microsoft hasn’t made much of a dent yet in Google’s and Apple’s share of the market, but IDC estimated last month that Windows would have 10.2% of the tablet market by 2017. Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard have launched Windows 8 tablets with Bay Trail, and Microsoft’s own Surface Pro 2 uses an Intel Core processor, but the tablets haven’t sold well.

 

 

 

Google Glass One Day Sale Proves Successful

April 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Google’s one-day sale of Google Glass appears to have been a success with all units sold out, a blog post by the technology titan suggests.

“All spots in the Explorer Program have been claimed for now, but if you missed it this time, don’t worry,” the Google Glass team wrote on its blog on Wednesday.

“We’ll be trying new ways to expand the Explorer program in the future.”

Google did not respond to a request for more information, but an earlier post about the one-day sale spoke of brisk sales of the $1,500 Internet-enabled headset.

“We’ve sold out of Cotton (white), so things are moving really fast,” the team wrote.

Aside from the white version, Glass was being offered in shades marketed as Charcoal, Tangerine, Shale (grey) and Sky (blue). Buyers had the choice of their favorite shade or frame. Google announced the one-day sale available to all U.S. residents over 18 last week, adding it wasn’t ready to bring the gizmo to other countries. Shoppers who missed it have to sign up for updates at the Glass website.

Only a few thousand early adopters and developers had Glass before the one-day sale, which coincided with a major software update for the heads-up display that put video calling on hold.

An official launch of Google Glass may happen later this year.

 

MediaTek Shows Off New LTE SoC

April 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

MediaTek has shown off one of its most interesting SoC designs to date at the China Electronic Information Expo. The MT6595 was announced a while ago, but this is apparently the first time MediaTek showcased it in action.

It is a big.LITTLE octa-core with integrated LTE support. It has four Cortex A17 cores backed by four Cortex A7 cores and it can hit 2.2GHz. The GPU of choice is the PowerVR G6200. It supports 2K4K video playback and recording, as well as H.265. It can deal with a 20-megapixel camera, too.

The really interesting bit is the modem. It can handle TD-LTE/FDD-LTE/WCDMA/TD-SCDMA/GSM networks, hence the company claims it is the first octa-core with on board LTE. Qualcomm has already announced an LTE-enabled octa-core, but it won’t be ready anytime soon. The MT6595 will – it is expected to show up in actual devices very soon.

Of course, MediaTek is going after a different market. Qualcomm is building the meanest possible chip with four 64-bit Cortex A57 cores and four A53 cores, while MediaTek is keeping the MT6595 somewhat simpler, with smaller 32-bit cores.

Courtesy-Fud

Microsoft Updates Office Online

April 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is updating its Web-based Office Online suite, closing the features gap with the main Office 365 and Office 2013 suites installed on users’ devices.

“We know you want features that allow you to move as seamlessly as possible between Office Online and the desktop,” wrote Kaberi Chowdhury, an Office Online technical product manager, in a blog post Monday.

Improvements to Excel Online include the ability to insert new comments, edit and delete existing comments, and properly open and edit spreadsheets that contain Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code.

Meanwhile, Word Online has a new “pane” where users can see all comments in a document, and reply to them or mark them as completed. It also has a refined lists feature that is better able to recognize whether users are continuing a list or starting one. In addition, footnotes and end notes can now be added more conveniently inline.

PowerPoint Online has a revamped text editor that offers a layout view that more closely resembles the look of finished slides, according to Microsoft. It also has improved performance and video functionality, including the ability to play back embedded YouTube videos.

For users of OneNote Online, Microsoft is now adding the ability to print out the notes they’ve created with the application.

Microsoft is also making Word Online, PowerPoint Online and OneNote Online available via Google’s Chrome Web Store so that Chrome browser users can add them to their Chrome App launcher. Excel Online will be added later.

The improvements in Office Online will be rolled out to users this week, starting Monday.

Office Online, which used to be called Office Web Apps, competes directly against Google Docs and other browser-based office productivity suites. It’s meant to offer users a free, lightweight, Web-based version of these four applications if they don’t have the desktop editions on the device they’re using at that moment.

 

Google Reveals Email Scanning Practices In Revised Terms Of Service

April 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google Inc updated its terms of service earlier this week, informing users that their incoming and outgoing emails are automatically analyzed by software to create targeted ads.

The revisions more explicitly spell out the manner in which Google software scans users’ emails, both when messages are stored on Google’s servers and when they are in transit, a controversial practice that has been at the heart of litigation.

Last month, a U.S. judge decided not to combine several lawsuits that accused Google of violating the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of email users into a single class action.

Users of Google’s Gmail email service have accused the company of violating federal and state privacy and wiretapping laws by scanning their messages so it could compile secret profiles and target advertising. Google has argued that users implicitly consented to its activity, recognizing it as part of the email delivery process.

Google spokesman Matt Kallman said in a statement that the changes “will give people even greater clarity and are based on feedback we’ve received over the last few months.”

Google’s updated terms of service added a paragraph stating that “our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.

 

Intel Shows Off New Hybrid Laptop Geared Towards Schools

April 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Intel unveiled a laptop-tablet hybrid with Windows 8.1 for the education market, where Chromebooks and tablets are also vying for customers.

The Intel Education 2-in-1 hybrid has a 10.1-inch screen that can detach from a keyboard base to turn into a tablet. Intel makes reference designs, which are then replicated by device makers and sold to educational institutions.

The 2-in-1 has a quad-core Intel Atom processor Z3740D, which is based on the Bay Trail architecture. The battery lasts about eight hours in tablet mode, and three more hours when docked with the keyboard base, which has a second battery.

Intel did not immediately return requests for comment on the estimated price for the hybrid or when it would become available.

Education is a hotly contested market among computer makers, as Apple pushes its iPads and MacBooks while PC makers like Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo hawk their Chromebooks.

Some features in the Intel 2-in-1 are drawn from the company’s Education tablets, which also run on Atom processors, but have the Android OS.

The 2-in-1 hybrid has front-facing and rear-facing cameras, and a snap-on magnification lens that allows students to examine items at a microscopic level.

The computer can withstand a drop of 70 centimeters, a feature added as protection for instances in which children mishandle laptops and let them fall. The keyboard base also has a handle.

The screen can be swiveled and placed on the keyboard, giving it the capability of a classic convertible laptop. This feature has been drawn from Intel’s Classmate series of education laptops.

The 2-in-1 has software intended to make learning easier, including tools for the arts and science. Intel’s Kno app provides access to 225,000 books. Typically, some of the books available via Kno are free, while others are fee-based.

 

 

BlackBerry Plans To Release Patch For ‘Heartbleed’ Vulnerability

April 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd said it will release security updates for messaging software for Android and iOS devices by Friday to address vulnerabilities in programs related to the “Heartbleed” security threat.

Researchers last week warned they uncovered Heartbleed, a bug that targets the OpenSSL software commonly used to keep data secure, potentially allowing hackers to steal massive troves of information without leaving a trace.

Security experts initially told companies to focus on securing vulnerable websites, but have since warned about threats to technology used in data centers and on mobile devices running Google Inc’s Android software and Apple Inc’s iOS software.

Scott Totzke, BlackBerry senior vice president, told Reuters on Sunday that while the bulk of BlackBerry products do not use the vulnerable software, the company does need to update two widely used products: Secure Work Space corporate email and BBM messaging program for Android and iOS.

He said they are vulnerable to attacks by hackers if they gain access to those apps through either WiFi connections or carrier networks.

Still, he said, “The level of risk here is extremely small,” because BlackBerry’s security technology would make it difficult for a hacker to succeed in gaining data through an attack.

“It’s a very complex attack that has to be timed in a very small window,” he said, adding that it was safe to continue using those apps before an update is issued.

Google spokesman Christopher Katsaros declined comment. Officials with Apple could not be reached.

Security experts say that other mobile apps are also likely vulnerable because they use OpenSSL code.

Michael Shaulov, chief executive of Lacoon Mobile Security, said he suspects that apps that compete with BlackBerry in an area known as mobile device management are also susceptible to attack because they, too, typically use OpenSSL code.

He said mobile app developers have time to figure out which products are vulnerable and fix them.

“It will take the hackers a couple of weeks or even a month to move from ‘proof of concept’ to being able to exploit devices,” said Shaulov.

Technology firms and the U.S. government are taking the threat extremely seriously. Federal officials warned banks and other businesses on Friday to be on alert for hackers seeking to steal data exposed by the Heartbleed bug.

Companies including Cisco Systems Inc, Hewlett-Packard Co, International Business Machines Corp, Intel Corp, Juniper Networks Inc, Oracle Corp Red Hat Inc have warned customers they may be at risk. Some updates are out, while others, like BlackBerry, are rushing to get them ready.

 

Did Cisco Help The Chinese Government Snoop?

April 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Cisco has been accused of helping the Chinese authorities snoop on, discriminate against and violently suppress the religious group Falun Gong.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has taken Cisco to task about this, and has filed a request to submit an amicus brief in a US District Court in California.

It asks the court to let the case “Doe vs Cisco Systems” go ahead, telling it that the firm has aided China’s human rights abuses.

“China’s record of human rights abuses against the Falun Gong is notorious, including detention, torture, forced conversions, and even deaths. These violations have been well-documented by the UN, the US State Department, and many others around the world, including documentation of China’s use of sophisticated surveillance technologies to facilitate this repression,” it said.

“The central claim in the case is that Cisco purposefully customized its general purpose router technology to allow the Chinese government to identify, track, and detain Falun Gong members.”

The EFF alleges that Cisco was asked to customize its kit so that the Chinese authorities could pick up Falun Gong ‘signatures’ and enable the logging and monitoring of traffic patterns.

Its lawsuit alleges that Cisco knew about this customization, knew that it would be used to repress the Falun Gong, and still marketed and supported the technologies “towards that purpose”.

“In fact, the case arises in part from the publication several years ago of a presentation in which Cisco confirms that the Golden Shield is helpful to the Chinese government to ‘Combat Falun Gong Evil Religion and Other Hostilities’,” adds the EFF.

“It also alleges that these customization’s were actually used to identify and detain the plaintiffs.”

Cisco has declined our request to comment on the views of the EFF and its lawsuit.

Courtesy-TheInq

Federal Gov’t Wants Instagram Data From Facebook Now

April 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook released its second government requests report covering the second half of 2013, and it expands its scope from the first one in two ways. First, it includes requests to restrict or remove users’ content from the site, whereas the first report was limited to requests for account information. And second, the report now includes data on Instagram, the photo sharing site owned by Facebook.

Facebook is not breaking out the number of Instagram requests; they’re included in the overall tallies. But Instagram’s inclusion speaks to the popularity of the service, which Facebook acquired in 2012 but didn’t include in its government requests report for the first half of 2013.

The report includes data on government requests to receive data about Instagram accounts and to restrict access to its content.

Facebook receives requests to restrict or remove content based on countries’ laws over what can be shared online. When the request is legally sound, Facebook restricts access to content in the specific country whose government objected to it. If Facebook also determines that the flagged content violates its own standards, it removes the content globally. Separately, Facebook also receives requests for account information and data, many of which relate to criminal cases such as robberies or kidnappings.

Facebook does not hand over data every time it receives a government request — sometimes the requests are overly broad or vague, or do not comply with legal standards, the company says.

In the U.S., Facebook received about 12,600 law enforcement requests in the second half of 2013, up from the range of 11,000-12,000 it tallied in its first report. For the second half of 2013, Facebook said it produced data for about 81 percent of the requests.

Regarding U.S. government requests about national security matters, Facebook reported it may have received none or as many as 999, saying it couldn’t be more specific due to U.S. legal restrictions.

Governments in other countries across the world are also interested in Facebook users’ data. India ranked second behind the U.S. with about 3,600 requests targeting more than 4,700 accounts. Facebook produced data for roughly half of those requests.

More than 1,900 requests came from the U.K., while the governments of France, Germany and Italy each served Facebook with more than 1,600 data requests.

Besides Facebook, other companies like Yahoo, Google and Microsoft periodically release their own government request reports, as part of an effort to be more transparent to users. The tallies have taken on increased significance following leaks about U.S. government surveillance made by former contractor Edward Snowden.

 

Amazon Rumored To Launch Smartphone In Time For Christmas Season

April 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon.com Inc is making plans to unveil its long-rumored smartphone in the second half of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people briefed on the company’s plans.

The Internet retailer would jump into a crowded market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The company has recently been demonstrating versions of the handset to developers in San Francisco and Seattle. It intends to announce the device in June and ship to stores around the end of September, the newspaper cited the unidentified sources as saying.

Amazon has made great strides into the hardware arena as it seeks to boost sales of digital content and puts its online store in front of more users. Amazon recently launched its $99 Fire TV video-streaming box and its Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets already command respectable U.S. market share after just a few years on the market.

Rumors of an Amazon-designed smartphone have circulated for years, though executives have previously played down ambitions to leap into a heavily competitive and increasingly saturated market.

Apple and Samsung, which once accounted for the lion’s share of the smartphone market, are struggling to maintain margins as new entrants such as Huawei and Lenovo target the lower-income segment.

To stand out from the crowd, Amazon intends to equip its phones with screens that display three-dimensional images without a need for special glasses, the Journal said.

Amazon officials were not immediately available for comment.