The Apple Genius Bar has proven to be a pretty popular service for those not quite sure what they’re looking for. Don’t know whether you need a MacBook Pro, Air or even an iPad? Make an appointment with an expert at one of Apple’s in-store Genius Bars.

Indeed, just last week we reported that Apple’s 375 outlets have served almost 300M visitors so far in 2012, with 50,000 visitors arriving at the Genius Bar each day. One of the biggest surprises here, however, is that Apple only has 375 stores – which means unless you happen to live in one of the bigger towns or cities, you’ll likely have some drive to meet an Apple Expert.

Now, however, it seems that Apple is opening up elements of its Genius Bar to its online store in the UK. In addition to the existing freephone telephone number, you also now have an ‘Ask Now’ feature which lets you initiate a live online chat, or you can simply get them to call you back or give you a live guided tour.

One of the Apple reps told us that some of these features “have been available for a while already, but only accessible through certain pages.”

a21 520x241 Apple takes its Genius Bar online to help you set up your iPhone and iPad

When you click on the ‘Let’s Chat’ feature, a window will pop up inviting you to chat with an Apple rep.

b13 520x292 Apple takes its Genius Bar online to help you set up your iPhone and iPad

While the feature is very much live now for UK consumers, Pocket Lint notes that it’s also live in Germany, Spain and Brazil, though no sign of the US at the moment.

The guided tour is an interesting one, with Apple noting: “…you’ll watch the Specialist’s screen on your computer as you visit web pages, view apps, and explore other online resources together. So when you have a question, you’ll get to experience the information for yourself — and you’ll have the knowledge to make the right buying decisions.”

Once you’ve bought a new iPad or iPhone through an Apple Specialist (after clicking the Ask Now button), you can schedule an online session to help you set it up. “You’ll be able to watch the Specialist’s device and follow along on your own as you set up email, download apps, learn some tips and tricks, and more,” says Apple. “Our Specialists will take the time to understand your needs and answer all your questions. We don’t work on commission, so we care only about making sure you’re completely satisfied with your purchase.”

So, Apple is looking to make it easier for consumers to make the decision to jump from ‘shopping’ to ‘buying’ to ‘setting up’. And by removing the need to physically enter a store, this should go some way towards doing that.