Microsoft's Zune MP3 player, which they've billed as a competitor to the Apple iPod, ran in to a major problem yesterday. According to Microsoft, most 30 GB Zune players stopped working yesterday, seemingly randomly. Apparently, the problem had to do with the fact that 2008 was a leap year, and thus had 366 days.
(If this sounds familiar, this is the kind of thinking that had people worried about the year 2000 and computers.)
This is something they can fix through software in the future - however, for the moment, Microsoft's solution is for people to let the device entirely power off. The reason is because the battery can not be removed by the user. Apparently, any time after noon today (1/1/09) would be an okay time to charge and reboot the Zune without experiencing issues.
Issues like this happen all the time in Microsoft, but this is a bigger issue than that. Software engineering should have a lot of quality assurance, but honestly, people hate to have their work tested under strenuous conditions. The same problem comes up with management. Does it work? If so, ship it. Why waste a ton of money testing if odds are that we won't find a major error?
This is likely an example of that.
I am sure Microsoft will fix it, and it won't happen again, but thousands of Zune users will watch the series of "Hi, I'm a Mac" ads and pay a little more attention.