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Microsoft says Zune players working again

Microsoft said Wednesday that a Leap year issue caused problems with the 30-gigabyte Zunes, following a flood of online customer complaints about the digital music players freezing up.
This photo obtained from the Microsoft C
Zune 30 users report that their players get stuck on the Zune logo screen as it appears to load, and efforts to unjam the device are mostly fruitless.Douglas Evans / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Many of Microsoft's Zune media players that froze up on the last day of 2008 because of a glitch involving their internal clock were functioning properly Thursday as the new year was ushered in, according to the company. However, a few people were still complaining of problems operating the devices.

( is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

Microsoft spokesman Brian Eskridge said that based on responses from customers and his review of online message forums, affected users of the 30-gigabyte Zune model were not having further problems after fully recharging their devices and powering them on again on Thursday.

"It worked for me and it seems like it's working for customers," said Eskridge, who has one of the 30-gigabyte Zune players that was temporarily without service. "From the limited time I've looked on the forums, it seems customers have had good success with it."

But, by midmorning Thursday, a few people were still complaining on one online Zune forum about their devices not booting up. Most people on the forum said their devices were working, and they encouraged people who were still having problems to be patient and let their devices fully charge before powering them on again.

A day earlier when people turned on the 30-gigabyte model, the device would freeze and wouldn't fully boot up, meaning users couldn't play music, videos and games or transfer material between their PCs and the devices.

Frustrated users lit up Microsoft's online support forum for Zunes with more than 2,500 messages by Wednesday afternoon.

Eskridge said the problem involved a bug in the model's internal clock driver that was related to how the device handles the extra day during a leap year. Last year was a leap year. When 2008 ended and 2009 began Thursday, the internal clock automatically reset, he said.

"I don't know the technical details beyond that," Eskridge said Thursday. "I just know it didn't function yesterday."

The problem did not affect users of other Zune models, he said. Eskridge did not have exact figures on how many people own the 30-gigabyte model.

An extra day was tacked on to February in 2008 and by international agreement, the world’s timekeepers also added a “leap second” to Dec. 31 to keep Earth apace with very precise clocks.

As of Friday morning, more than 3,783 comments had been posted on Microsoft's Zune message board in response to an entry entitled “Help-frozen zune!!!!”

“My Zune has managed to freeze itself with the Zune logo and the loading bar on the screen and none of the buttons are responding, rebooting isn't responding, plugging it into the computer isn't responding, nothing is working, and it was working a mere two hours ago,” wrote the person who touched off the discussion.

Since the massive freeze struck shortly before New Year’s Eve, some users have dubbed it “Z2K,” a play off the Y2K bug feared to crash computers in 2000.

Emotions were running high on the Zune message board as some users said they were about to cry and others went so far as to say they might even die without their player. Others cut in, telling people to “CHILL OUT.”

For some, the Zune freeze made them realize just how attached they are to their player, containing music sometimes collected over years.

“My whole life’s music is on mine, over 2,000 songs, so I damn well hope they fix this,” read a posting on the Zune message board.

The price tag of the Zune 30 was slashed by $50 to $199 in 2007. The 30GB version was the first portable music player by Microsoft, which brought it to market in 2006. Originally just dubbed the Zune, it was later renamed Zune 30 when additional models hit stores. There are several models of Zune players, some with flash memory storage and others with hard drives up to 120GB.

The Zune has between 3 to 4 percent of the digital music player market, which is dominated by Apple’s iPod, with more than 70 percent of the market. Microsoft has sold more than 2 million Zunes. In contrast, Apple sold about 10.6 million iPods alone in the first quarter of 2008.'s Jasmin Aline Persch contributed to this report.