Looks like the Midwest isn't the only thing that's freezing up this holiday season: many people are reporting that their 30GB Zunes are spontaneously going on the fritz as well.
The symptom is being reported widely on discussion boards about Microsoft's music player, including Zune.net, Zune User Community Forums, and ZuneScene. With the problem, people's Zunes reboot but freeze when the startup status bar reaches 100 percent.
Some users reported the problem happened at exactly midnight PST, at the very beginning of the last day of the year. That timing led some wags to call the problem Z2K after the Y2K problem that was widely feared to cripple the computing industry when computer clocks moved from 1999 to 2000.
Microsoft didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday morning, but issued a statement later in the day (see below).
"I hate to say it but I believe this is the end of the road for the Zune and I. Just as I was happy with the last update and things were fine, we get another major meltdown. I was always supportive and had good things to say about my Zune to those that would ask, however this is the nail in the coffin," griped user Redinight on a ZuneScene discussion board. "I can't take it anymore. I can't sit here all the time and wonder what Microsoft does right or wrong anymore, I just want to get up and go listen to my music. Listening to music is about the last thing I do with my Zune. I always have to reinstall, download new firmware, or wait for the slow software to catch up. Now this? I want to throw it away and never look back."
Update 8:11 a.m. PST:: Microsoft has acknowledged the issue on the Zune support site. "Customers with 30GB Zune devices may experience issues when booting their Zune hardware. We're aware of the problem and are working to correct it. Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks for your patience!"
Update 10:00 a.m. PST: Searches for "Zune frozen" have surged, according to Google Trends, a site that monitors search terms. Google labeled the search "on fire" and rated it fourth on its list as of 10 a.m. PST.
So it appears that after a couple of years of struggling to win away some of the buzz of the market-leading Apple iPod, Microsoft finally found a way to draw attention to its music and video player.
Increasingly, it appears the problem is universal among 30GB Zunes, though Microsoft still hasn't commented.
Kitina Young, whose family owns four now-useless 30GB Zunes, isn't happy about Microsoft's response or the device's track record.
"My 15-year-old's Zune has been out of commission for a couple of months due to issues with the charging pins. We have had to send another back for repairs again due to the charging pins. I am definitely reconsidering the purchase now because of this event," she said in an e-mail. "My husband is a software developer, and if he put something out there that had these issues, he would lose his job!"
Update 11:05 a.m. PST: Microsoft has issued a statement, but things sound preliminary at this stage. "At this point, the developer team is working on finding the issue and correcting it," a company representative said.
Update 2:11 p.m. PST: Microsoft issued another statement, saying its technical team has isolated the issue: a bug in the internal clock driver related to the way the device handles a leap year. The company says the issue should be resolved over the next 24 hours as the time change moves to January 1, 2009.
"We expect the internal clock on the Zune 30GB devices will automatically reset tomorrow (noon, GMT)," Microsoft said. "By tomorrow you should allow the battery to fully run out of power before the unit can restart successfully, then simply ensure that your device is recharged, then turn it back on. If you're a Zune Pass subscriber, you may need to sync your device with your PC to refresh the rights to the subscription content you have downloaded to your device."