Following a rumor from October that claimed that Microsoft may drop its requirement that all Windows Phone devices include hardware Back, Windows and Search buttons, a purported screenshot of the upcoming Windows Phone "Blue" update has surfaced to back that claim up.
Posted to Twitter by @evleaks, the image is said to be a "partial Windows Phone 'Blue' screenshot," showing a black bar with the same Back, Windows and Search keys that are located at the bottom of every Windows Phone 8 device. No other details about the update or the buttons are included.
Microsoft has had a few different requirements throughout Windows Phone's short life, one of which is that devices must feature a set of physical Back, Windows and Search buttons. However, the company is said to be considering dropping that requirement in the upcoming Windows Phone "Blue" in an effort to lower the cost of devices for hardware manufacturers. The move could also make it easier for device makers to produce entry-level Windows Phone hardware that's similar to any Android handsets that they may be producing, as they'd no longer need to create a special Windows Phone chassis with the hardware Back, Windows and Search keys.
In addition to the possible inclusion of on-screen navigation buttons, the Windows Phone Blue update is expected to bring improved multitasking support, a notification center, updated versions of Microsoft's built-in apps and more. Overall it sounds like a pretty nice little update that could finally bring some oft-requested features, like a notification center, to Windows Phone and also make it easier for manufacturers to crank out devices running Microsoft's mobile platform. The update will reportedly make its debut in 2014.