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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 32 mins ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.