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Not the Zune

December 31st, 2008

For some reason or another, a lot of people like hitting Apple. Maybe it has to do with the David-and-Goliath, support-the-underdog-hit-the-corporate-giant mentality (which, ironically, is why a lot of people like Apple or at least favor it over Microsoft). Or maybe it’s the hard-core Windows people who just love to take any jab they can against what they perceive as a cult-like following of the opposition. Whatever. But there was a big fuss recently when a reporter wrote that he spotted Obama using a Zune. Suddenly a lot of people were laughing derisively at Apple and the iPod.

Of course, it wasn’t what it looked like. Obama is known to be a Mac user, and using a Zune wouldn’t make much sense, because Microsoft never bothered to make the Zune work with Macs (the only workaround being to use Windows on a Mac). And that even assuming that Obama would want to use a Zune in the first place. And, natch, we wind up seeing images of Obama with an iPod strapped to his belt, which makes a lot more sense. Turns out that Microsoft gave a whole truckload full of Zune freebies at the Democratic convention, and the Obama-using-a-Zune report was most likely Obama using a loaner from a staffer.

Good thing for Obama, too–looks like the Zune is not as well programmed as people had thought, at least not the original version. It turns out that the original Zune 30 was set to self-destruct right about now. Zune users who have the original model are all reporting their Zunes being bricked as of tonight–If the date is December 31st and you boot your Zune 30, chances are it will die. It’ll reach about 90% in the boot-up process, and then become the brick that it so closely resembles in design.

If you ask me, that’s a pretty serious bug–I mean, I don’t recall anything like that hitting an entire class of player before. You get what you pay for, I guess….

Update: Microsoft says it’s because 2008 was a leap year, and the Zunes should arise from the dead after midnight tonight (scary image, that). If you ask me, making software that kills the device every leap year is a wee bit of an obvious oversight. Not to mention that the whole device locking up is a bit of a dramatic effect; if it just reported the time incorrectly, that would be easier to see, but the whole device locking up? Tsk, tsk. BTW, if you look at the “Q&A” posted at Microsoft’s ZuneInsider site, it’s kind of funny; all the answers are essentially “wait until tomorrow.”

It’s also entertaining reading the comments there as well; a few readers were ecstatic at Microsoft’s quick reply and said Apple would never work so fast. Aside from Apple not making such a bone-headed mistake in the programming, they are essentially happy that it took Microsoft support half a day to tell people the obvious–that it was due to the date–and to bring a “fix” that was essentially, “wait until tomorrow,” for which all they had to do was reset a clock on a Zune and see what happened. Wow, incredibly fast work there, Zune team!

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