The name "Apple TV" used to mean a single hardware product line from Apple. Today, the name is used for apps found on iOS devices, Macs running macOS 10.15 Catalina, apps on other manufacturer's smart TVs and streaming boxes, and for Apple's new subscription-based TV service, Apple TV+. And yes, Apple still uses the name for their expensive streaming devices.
Apple TV, the Apple branded hardware device, has been around for a long time. It was first introduced by then Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, at the 2007 MacWorld San Franciso event. Back then, Jobs described the device as a "hobby". The first Apple TV looked very much like a modern day Mac mini - a small, flat grey box. The first Apple TV ran a stripped down version of Mac OS X 10.4. In the 12 years since, Apple has released five versions of Apple TV. Apple currently sells two editions of Apple TV: the 2017 Apple TV 4K ($179) and the non-4K Apple TV HD ($149). Theses devices connect to your TV using an HDMI cable. They can stream your purchases from the iTunes store. If you have a subscription to streaming services, such as Netflix, Disney+, or Hulu, you can install their apps. The Apple TV 4K is available in 32 and 64GB capacities. I use a 2015 32GB Apple TV HD almost every day and have not found a reason for wanting to purchase a 64GB model.
Apple TV, the application, while not as old as the Apple TV hardware line, has been on iOS devices since iOS 10.2, released in December 2016. The Apple TV app was the primary way that iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users played back their iTunes purchased video content. Today, the Apple TV app, has appeared on other devices. Earlier this year, the Apple TV app came to macOS 10.15 Catalina, taking over the role as the iTunes purchased content player from iTunes. Apple TV, the app, also appears on Apple TV, the devices too. In preparation of the launch of Apple TV+, the service, which I will get to in a minute, Apple TV is now appearing on select Samsung smart TVs and third-party streaming devices from Amazon and Roku. Primarily intended to be the delivery vehicle for Apple TV+ streaming content, the Apple TV app on smart TVs and streaming boxes allow you to login to your Apple ID/iTunes Store/Apple TV+ account (they are all the same account) and stream your video purchases too. I recently tried using the Apple TV app on a second generation Amazon Fire TV Stick and it works well for streaming the movies and TV shows that I have purchased on my Mac.
The Streaming Service
Apple TV+ is Apple's paid video content streaming service. After being rumored for many years, this past November, Apple entered the original content creation and distribution arena. Subscribers to Apple TV+ can watch new original content such as Ron Moore's For All Man Kind, on any device that can run the Apple TV app. The service costs $4.99 a month. If you recently purchased an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or iPod touch recently, you likely have an option to receive the first year of Apple TV+ for free. Like other streaming TV services, Apple TV+ also has a website: tv.apple.com. The Apple TV+ website works like other streaming service websites. As a test, I logged into the Apple TV+ website using a current version of Mozilla Firefox running on Canonical's Ubuntu Linux Desktop 19.10 using one of my Apple IDs.
That is a lot of Apple TV hardware, software, and service. Hopefully, this blog post has helped clarify what all of these TV related products from Apple are.