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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Forced online by the pandemic and overshadowed by the attack on the Capitol, the 2021 edition of CES was mostly an afterthought as media's attention focused elsewhere.

Why it matters: The consumer electronics trade show is the cornerstone event for the Consumer Technology Association and Las Vegas has been the traditional early-January gathering place for the tech industry.

Details: Plenty of tech companies announced their latest wares last week, including new TVs, laptops and appliances from Samsung, LG, Lenovo, Acer and others. (You can see our wrap-up of highlights here.)

  • There were just a lot fewer people paying attention, especially among the non-tech press, whose focus was decidedly elsewhere.

Between the lines: While keynotes were broadcast online and organizers of both the main show and side events did their best to replicate things virtually, much of the show's draw is in getting to meet people face to face and touch and use the latest products.

  • There were already concerns the show had grown too large. While this can be a sign of success, it's also the case that conventions can grow too unwieldy and eventually fade from prominence. Just ask the organizers of CeBit and Comdex.

Our thought bubble: By going virtual, CES was able to potentially market itself to a bigger audience. But holding attention is tougher for virtual events, especially those that stretch over days.

  • When people force themselves on to a packed airplane and overpay for a couple nights at the Wynn, they are likely to be in full CES mode from morning to night.
  • At home, it's easier to move on to other things, especially given all that is going on right now.

Yes, but: There may be a bump in demand once travel is safe, which will be an important opportunity for CES to reassert itself.

  • Show organizers also deserve credit for increasing the diversity of their keynote lineup, with three female CEOs speaking on Tuesday alone. It was just a couple years ago that organizers scheduled an event where all the corporate keynotes were from men.

What they're saying: CTA said more than 2,000 companies debuted products during last week's digital event, but acknowledged that it isn't a substitute for the in-person gathering and it looks forward to a hybrid digital/in-person event anchored in Las Vegas next year.

  • "The digital CES 2021 was not meant to replace or recreate an in-person tradeshow. In-person events will remain key to furthering business and economic growth around the world," a CTA representative said in a statement to Axios.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Political consultants pocket taxpayer cash

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Members of Congress are turning to the same political consultants who got them elected to blast out taxpayer-funded communications from their government offices, records show.

Why it matters: While those members are barred from politicking with official funds, the firms have expertise in boosting elected officials' images for political gain and are in high demand for both campaign and government work.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America
  3. Politics: Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Schumer pushes for doomed filibuster changes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer addresses reporters Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the Democratic caucus Tuesday night he plans to propose instituting a one-time "talking" filibuster requirement, and bypassing the 60-vote threshold for major legislation, to pass the party's election reforms package via simple majority.

Why it matters: While Schumer acknowledged both votes are expected to fail — and some vulnerable Democrats up for re-election feel it will put them in a tough spot — he argued it's worth putting members on the record for historic legislation.