“In an age when human help of any kind is hard to come by, the eight or nine [Mac] Geniuses on duty at any given time here [at Apple’s San Francisco retail store] are a welcome anomaly,” Katie Hafner writes for The New York Times. “In fact, go to any of the 102 Apple-owned retail stores in the world and – if you are willing to wait – you will be treated to what is an increasingly rare service: free face-to-face technical support.

“The walk-up assistance has existed since the first Apple Store opened in 2001, in Washington. Over the years, as the concept gained momentum, the bars have become what Ron Johnson, Apple’s senior vice president for retailing, calls the soul of the stores. ‘It’s the part of the store that people connect to emotionally more than any other,’ Mr. Johnson said,” Hafner writes.

“Paula Mauro, who lives in New York and recently spent several hours at the Genius Bar in the SoHo store, got that message when getting help with iPod-to-PC communication,” Hafner reports. “As she sat at the bar with her 10-year-old son, William, who aspires to Macintosh ownership, it became evident to her that synching an iPod to a Macintosh computer is relatively seamless, while her three-year-old PC posed no end of technical challenges. ‘The next computer I buy is going to be a Mac,’ she said.”

Full article here.