Microsoft has finally gotten to the bottom of the issue, the failure was apparently related to an internal clock driver error that couldn’t handle a leap year (what is this, amateur hour — literally?) and a “fix” is at hand (or will be tomorrow at least).
The statement from a Microsoft spokesperson:
Early this morning we were alerted by our customers that there was a widespread issue affecting our 2006 model Zune 30GB devices (a large number of which are still actively being used). The technical team jumped on the problem immediately and isolated the issue: a bug in the internal clock driver related to the way the device handles a leap year. That being the case, 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). 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.
We know this has been a big inconvenience to our customers and we are sorry for that, and want to thank them for their patience.
The solution kind of reminds me of the “Bob’s” solution for getting rid of Milton in Office Space: “We, uh, we fixed the *glitch*. So he won’t be receiving a paycheck anymore, so it’ll just work itself out naturally.”