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Z2K? Reports pour in of frozen Zune media players*

December 31, 2008 |  9:20 am

Zune 30 diesUPDATE: Many Zunes appear to be working now. Read the full story here.



For many people who own the Zune digital media player, New Year's Eve is the day the music died.

Internet message boards are lighting up with reports that 30-gigabyte models of Microsoft's Zune digital media player froze up shortly after midnight today.

The players seem to be getting stuck with the Zune logo on the screen (see the photograph to the right uploaded to Flickr), and simple resets won't fix the problem.

Angry users are dubbing the problem "Z2K" and "Z2K9" -- plays on the much-feared Y2K glitch that never quite materialized at the turn of the millennium.

"We've been flooded with tips about users whose 30GB players started locking up at midnight last night, essentially bricking themselves without any help from their owners," Engadget reports.

According to Gizmodo:

The proximity of the events to the New Year, which inspired the Y2K9 moniker, provides little more than a colorful backdrop; it's unlikely that the switching of years in the Zune's internal calendar has anything to do with the failures (besides, it hasn't even happened yet).

If not for the uniform representation of events across the Internet, I'd be tempted to suspect this as a hoax, but it just doesn't look that way. The story, assuming the described problem is of the magnitude reported, will probably take a turn for the large when the majority of Zuners start waking up.

Responding to the situation, Microsoft issued this statement: "We are aware that customers with the Zune 30GB are experiencing issues with their Zune device. We are actively working now to isolate the issue and develop a solution to address it. We will keep customers informed on next steps via the support page on"

The Redmond, Wash., company said that it has sold 3 million Zunes since ...

... they were introduced in November 2006, but that the problem affects only the unspecified number of models with 30 gigabytes of memory that were manufactured by Toshiba. Microsoft also sells five other models with 4, 8, 16, 80 and 120 gigabytes of memory.

The hardware glitch, also dubbed "the Zune Screen of Death" by some users, comes at an awkward time for Microsoft, which is rumored to be unveiling a Zune phone at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week, according to Richard Doherty, research director for the Envisioneering Group, a technology consulting firm. "Microsoft has been trying to keep up with Apple, and this is potentially very embarrassing for them," Doherty said.

The Zune seize-ups come on the heels of a hardware malfunction uncovered last year in Microsoft's Xbox 360 video game console that is estimated to have cost the company more than $1 billion to fix.

"From the Xbox 360 recall to the Zune surprise, Microsoft is learning that it's very difficult to be a hardware company," Doherty said.

Despite gaining just a fraction of the market share for portable digital music players, Zune has won over a loyal base of consumers, including Eddie Zapien, who woke up this morning to find his white Zune frozen.

"I'm more than a little upset," said the 25-year-old real estate broker in Salem, Ore., who keeps about 3,500 songs, 100 photos and four movies on his device. "It's indescribable. I love my Zune. I think it's the coolest thing I own. I wouldn't trade it for 50 iPods."

Zapien, who uses the player to play dance music in the car for his 4-year-old daughter while driving her to preschool, said the ride this morning was a lot less fun without their usual tunes. "My daughter was sad," he said. "She really missed it."

Has this happened to your Zune? Tell us your story in the comments below.

-- Alex Pham and Chris Gaither

UPDATE: Many Zunes appear to be working now. Read the full story here. This post also was updated earlier with Microsoft's response and comments from an analyst and a consumer.

Photo credit: yngrich via Flickr