On Thursday, September 20, Amazon held a secret event at its headquarters in Seattle to announce its next wave of products. We were expecting a few different announcements, but not 12 new pieces of hardware to expand the Alexa family in both new and familiar directions.

Google will be taking the stage next on October 9 to unveil what it's been working on, and while the one leaked smart home device may not be the only thing that's announced, it's going to take a lot from Google to top what Amazon's now rocking under its belt.

The stars of the event, and things most people were probably looking forward to, were the upgrades to exisitng hardware Amazon's already selling.

In these regards, we saw new versions of the Echo Plus, Echo Dot, and Echo Show. The new Echo Plus is essentially just a smaller, more eye-catching body for its predecessor and nothing more. The highlights of this bunch really lie with the Echo Dot and Show.

Compared to the Google Home Mini, last year's Echo Dot was no competition. It had a less attractive design, sounded a lot worse, and selling for the same $49 price as the Home Mini, it was obvious which device was the better purchase. With the new Echo Dot, that's no longer the case.

The Echo Dot and Show are finally ready to take on their Google counterparts.

Not only has Amazon adopted a homier fabric design, but the 1.6-inch driver is rated to be 70% louder and offer much clearer audio compared to the previous Echo Dot. The price is still $49, but unlike the Home Mini, it can connect to other speakers via Bluetooth and a 3.5mm jack.

Although it remains to be seen if the new Echo Show can dethrone the Lenovo Smart Display, it's certainly on the right track to do so. The screen's bigger, the new speakers should offer room-filling sound, and there's now full web browser support.

The Echo Dot and Show used to be clearly inferior alternatives to Google's smart home offerings, but if the upgrades we're seeing live up to their claims, Amazon's two most important Alexa devices will be able to stand up against their competition.

That's not enough on its own for Amazon to claim the smart home crown for 2018, but thankfully, that's far from the end of Amazon's recent offerings.

Here's where things get really exciting. The Echo Dot, Plus, and Show all look like great products that'll stand toe-to-toe with their Google Home counterparts. However, Amazon's going the extra mile by expanding the Alexa family with so much more.

Amazon now has a $60 microwave that can easily be connected to your other Alexa devices and controlled with voice commands. The Echo Wall Clock ties into your Echos to display timer durations with LED lights around its frame. You can get the Echo Sub that hooks up with two other Echos for an affordable 2.1 surround sound system. If you're always on the go, the Echo Auto brings Alexa to your car for just $49.

With these new products, Amazon's bringing Alexa to new form factors that can seem silly or intrusive at first, but if that's an ecosystem you live in, all of this stuff just makes sense.

Alexa really is showing up everywhere, and that's awesome.

Amazon wants Alexa to be an ever-living presence in your home that works with as many different things as it can. The Google Assistant on Home speakers works well with gadgets like smart lights, thermostats, etc., but this expansion into smaller products that are all handled directly by Amazon is something I don't envision Google doing for a long time (if ever).

How will Google respond to Amazon? We already know that the Home Hub is coming to grow the Google Home line, but that's all we've heard so far. It's entirely possible Google's got other stuff in the works that we just haven't seen yet, and should those announcements come, it'll be interesting to see what devices consumers gravitate to this year.

I'm already pretty invested in the Google Assistant space with two Home Minis, a regular Home, and Lenovo Smart Display, but with Alexa already baked into my Sonos Beam and Ones, now might be the time to give Alexa some more attention.

Here's everything Amazon announced at its 2018 hardware event