ZohoChallenger Zoho has now taken the software-as-a-service lead, becoming the first Web-based office suite to offer offline capability, as TechRepublic’s Jason Hiner previously discussed.

Software-as-a-service has been touted as an Microsoft Office replacement, and several competitors have been developing alternatives to Office that work through a Web browser. Surprisingly, not Google’s service, but the Zoho Writer component debuted as the first offline suite. It currently is read-only, but read-write will arrive soon to a browser near you. Zoho’s been available for nineteen months, and now the offline capability is challenging Google Documents.

Zoho’s free collaboration-enabled elements include a word processor, spreadsheet, slideshow editor and presentation, time and task organizer, database, chat, desktop sharing with Web conference and remote desktop, a wiki, and e-mail. Limited-use, expandable-for-a-fee services include project management and CRM, and that’s a heck of a lot more than even aging heavyweight Microsoft Office offers. Ironically, Zoho is using the Google Gears code as their foundation for the service, a code that Google Reader successfully pioneered for offline use. Zoho requires Firefox 1.5 or newer (including Mac) or IE version 6 and up.

Are you suggesting Zoho, Google Documents, or other software-as-a-service suites to your users who want Office-like capabilities at home but don’t have the software? Are software-as-a-service suites infiltrating your workplace?