This week Microsoft had a big test in hand – how to turn the world’s largest gadget show into a purely online event.

Microsoft’s decision to power this year’s CES and create a virtual showcase for its 1,800 exhibitors gave the tech giant a huge boost in advertising over its best-known cloud computing rivals Amazon and Google.

It was also a reputational risk, however, as this week’s event organizers tried to put together a plethora of web content and, for the most part, recorded the panel discussions in a way that was at least partially reminiscent of the colorful, energetic convention that takes over the Las Vegas Strip every January.

Sometimes it was hard to pretend that this year’s virtual CES was a live event.

“Don’t tell people we’re recording in December,” said moderator and venture capitalist Rajeev Chand, jokingly admonished a Twitter manager after his comments revealed that their user privacy debate aired Tuesday was taped almost a month earlier had been.

The consumer…

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