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Microsoft fix to keep Zune from skipping a beat

A firmware update next month will address "skipping" problem with some songs downloaded from the online store.

Microsoft is planning to issue a firmware update next month designed to fix a glitch that is causing some owners of the Zune music player to experience skipping when playing songs purchased from Microsoft's online store.

Zune marketing director Jason Reindorp said the company plans to issue the firmware update sometime in the middle of next month. Reindorp said the downloadable update will also offer other performance improvements, but no major feature updates to the player, which debuted in November.

"In mid-March we will release a firmware update which will address a 'skipping' issue some power users have experienced when listening to (Zune) Marketplace content and improve overall software reliability and efficiency," he said in an e-mail to CNET

Reindorp said the Zune held its No. 2 spot in hard drive-based digital music players in January, citing NPD numbers that give the company 9.9 percent of that market. The company still trails Apple's iPod in the hard drive-based music area and does not yet have a flash-based device to compete with the iPod Nano or Shuffle.

"We believe this toehold in the market will enable us to make a deeper footprint as time goes on," Reindorp said, "and we're committed to expanding the Zune offering."

In a phone interview, Reindorp declined to say when the company might add more devices or start selling video content. He added that the company is focused on making the music experience on the current device the best it can be.

Reindorp said the company did see its base of subscription customers grow by 60 percent in January over the prior month and individual song downloads increased 65 percent in the same period. Microsoft would not give specific figures. "Those numbers are still relatively small," Reindorp said. "But this growth is exactly what we hoped it would be."

Microsoft updated the Zune in December to allow both the device and the desktop Zune software to work properly with Windows Vista.