First Microsoft faces accusations of knowing about faulty Xbox 360 hardware before the consoles ever shipped, and now the company is facing another hardware-related crisis: Zune mass destruction.... or rather, the Zunepocalypse.
So maybe that's somewhat of an exaggeration, but when thousands upon thousands of Zune portable devices go haywire all at once, consumers should be wary of the manufacturer and its evil intent. Is this part of a Microsoft-Government conspiracy to take over the minds of millions of Americans? Is this a sign of the Apocalypse? Will the chicken ever cross the road safely? These questions can't be answered here, however enquiring minds want to know: what the hell is going on?
According to this article over on Gizmodo, 30GB Zunes are crashing all at once, its operating systems freezing up from midnight last night until now. A tip from a Gizmodo reader reports that the device begins to load, but freezes once the bar completes its journey across the screen. He checked his brother's 30GB Zune device and it too remained locked at the loading screen. Jumping online and trolling
through forums (Zune Support, Zune.net) coughed up nothing but bad news: the problem is widespread.
Others have reported that their Zunes automatically restarted once the clock changed to 12:00:01 am this morning, thus locking up at the boot screen. Whether the device was hooked to a PC, playing music, or turned off all night, the devices have ultimately become bricked with no viable solution from Microsoft. Even owners of multiple 30GB Zune models have reported identical problems.
Afflicted consumers flooding forums with their claims of doom call the meltdown "Zune 2K9," mostly because the device malfunction has transpired just one day away from a fresh new 2009; many believe that the bug is a problem with the calendar. The name also references back to the infamous Y2K bug that brought fear to the hearts of every living creature (aka stupid humans). A search on YouTube pulls up loads of ZK9 videos, from "How to Unfreeze Your 30GB Zune" to "The Day The 30GB Zune Stood Still."
Microsoft has acknowledged the problem but currently has not offered a fix. "Customers using the Zune 30 might experience problems starting their players," says the company on the Zune website. "We’re aware of the problem and are working to correct it. The Zune Social might be slow or inaccessible. Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks for your patience!"
One Zune forum member made a good observation: the issue may very well have something to do with the leap year. "Being a software engineer I can easily see where this Zune problem comes from," he states. "Since this is the 366th day of the year, and the problem reared its head precisely at midnight, it's pretty obvious it's a date/time software issue caused by this being a leap year and this extra day is causing the Zune to choke on its own spit. This isn't the first time MS programmers have had difficulty with time." Of course, the additional second is added at the end of the year, not last night; the problem may not be a calendar issue after all.
This repair guide offers an unofficial method of disassembling the device, allowing users to unplug the battery and the 30GB hard drive in order to "hard reset" the device. Of course, this method not only may damage the device for novice techs, but could void any current warranty with Microsoft.
The problem undoubtedly puts Microsoft in a difficult position, especially as the company still comes under fire in regards to the Xbox 360. "The game is over," said Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, in regards to the company's position in the digital music player market currently ruled by Apple.
Over one million 30GB units were sold between 2006 and 2007.
UPDATE: Microsoft has issued the official fix method for all those with fallen 30GB Zunes. Basically, wait until next year.