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SkypeThe Wall Street Journal just added some major fuel to the rumors about Microsoft and Skype, reporting that the Redmond company could announce a deal to buy the iconic Internet communications company for somewhere between $7 billion and $8 billion as early as tomorrow.

At that price, it would be the largest acquisition in Microsoft’s history, topping its $6 billion purchase of online advertising company aQuantive back in 2007. Since the recession, Microsoft has been quieter in mergers and acquisitions than many of its rivals.

As we reported yesterday, when rumors of a possible Skype deal first surfaced, a combination of the companies would make a lot of sense — linking Skype’s consumer brand with Microsoft’s foothold in the enterprise communications and collaboration market. Skype has been moving more toward business communications, and a deal could give Microsoft a well-known consumer brand in the space.

So in principle, at least, a deal seems to make a lot of sense. But that is one whopper of a price tag.

Skype, sold by eBay in 2009, filed its preliminary IPO papers last year. The reported $7-$8 billion being considered by Microsoft would represent a significant premium — a sign that Microsoft was willing to pony up to keep the company out of the hands of rival bidders Google and/or Facebook.

Although the aQuantive deal set a precedent in terms of price, Microsoft would need to learn some lessons from that acquisition. Not long after completing the aQuantive purchase, Microsoft got distracted by the search market and its Yahoo bid, and the aQuantive acquisition is widely recognized as falling short of its potential as a result. Notably, the aQuantive deal was also a defensive acquisition, in part — coming after Google’s deal to acquire DoubleClick.

No comment from Microsoft tonight. Stay tuned, this could get interesting.

Update: Reuters and the New York Times also confirm a deal is close. Kara Swisher says the deal is actually done.

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