Previously, WordPress.com users were limited to just over a hundred free themes with no ability to upload their own, thus cutting them off from the premium theme market. Now, premium theme developers have a chance to cash in on “the other WordPress” users.
WordPress.com is starting their premium theme offerings with Headlines for $45 (available to self-hosted WordPress users for $70 with two “bonus” themes) and Shelf for $68 (also available to self-hosted WordPress users for $68). WordPress.com plans to increase their free and premium theme offerings “in a big way” this year, so this is definitely shaping up to be a game-changer in the premium theme market.
(Disclosure: I also work at Automattic.)