Perhaps my open letter to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer needs an addendum. Something like this: "And, by the way, kill Zune. Now. Before it kills you."

The Zune certainly seems to be trying. As of 2 a.m. on New Year's Day around the world, owners of the 30-gigabyte version of the beleaguered music player watched their devices fail. Zune owner Redinight expressed the frustration of thousands in a post at zunescene.com an hour after the device's digital Judgment Day began:

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.

Call it Y2K, nine years too late.

Interestingly -- or, perhaps, tragically -- Mr. Softy may not deserve the blame it's getting. Zune wasn't the only player to wilt at the sight of Baby New Year. So did Toshiba's Gigabeat S, Gizmodo reports. The bloggers cite findings from anythingbutipod.com and ihaveazune.com, which say that power-management circuitry from Freescale Semiconductor could be to blame.

Makes sense to me. The Zune and Gigabeat both use Freescale components for power management, and Microsoft's troubleshooters are telling Zune owners to drain the battery to reset the device. Even so, the finger-pointing may be premature. No one has confirmed that Freescale is the source of the issue.

So let's focus on what we know. Mr. Softy badly trails Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and SanDisk (NASDAQ:SNDK) in the market for portable music players, and unlike the iPod Touch, it hasn't proved to be much of a threat to Nintendo's (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) DS or Sony's (NYSE:SNE) PSP in portable gaming.

Thus, I wonder whether this outage isn't a gift disguised as a curse. Isn't it exactly the excuse Mr. Softy needs to retire Zune for keeps? The player has proven neither popular nor extensible. Now it's facing a technical issue that presents an inopportune black eye.

Kill the Zune, Steve. Now.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers owns an iPhone but has yet to use it as a music player. He had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Apple and Nintendo are Stock Advisor selections. Microsoft is an Inside Value pick. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is ready for some football.