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Larson-Green demonstrates Windows 8.1 on stage. She says having an update just eight months after Windows 8's launch shows how responsive the company's engineering team has become. The update, she says, "refines the vision of Windows 8."
There's a new start screen for smaller devices such as Acer's 8.1-inch tablet. An on-screen keyboard pops up from the bottom, with gesture controls added. Suggestions come up as you type; to choose one, you can slide a figure across the space bar and tap. Another gesture lets you more easily enter numbers by sliding your finger.
The email app has a new sweep command to delete all but the latest newsletter, for instance.
One of the shortcomings of Windows tablets is a lack of apps for them. Ballmer says that's changing. He says Facebook, for instance, is now making an app for Windows 8. There are also fantasy football apps coming from the NFL.
The crowd cheered as Ballmer mentions some of the previously announced features coming to Windows 8.1.
That includes the ability to have machines automatically start up in the older, desktop mode rather than a tablet-style, full-page start screen that Microsoft has been pushing with Windows 8. Windows 8.1 will also restore a Start button on the lower left corner of the screen, although it will work differently in bringing people to the full-page start screen rather than the Start menu found in previous versions of Windows. He also talks about new search functions, using Microsoft's Bing search technology.
Ballmer announces new phones from Nokia running a phone version of Windows software.
He also talks about a smaller Windows tablet than the ones previously available with Windows 8. The new Acer Iconia has a screen that measures 8.1 inches diagonally. He says Microsoft and its partners had to do a lot of work to "bring the small tablet form factor to life." Ballmer says customers should expect many smaller Windows tablets to come. That will allow Windows to compete with popular small tablets such as Apple's iPad Mini and Google's Nexus 7.