Each platform version of Android (such as 1.5, 1.6, and so on) has a corresponding branch in the open-source tree. At any given moment, the most recent such branch will be considered the "current stable" branch version. This current stable branch is the one that manufacturers port to their devices. This branch is kept suitable for release at all times.
Simultaneously, there is also a "current experimental" branch, which is where speculative contributions, such as large next-generation features, are developed. Bug fixes and other contributions can be included in the current stable branch from the experimental branch as appropriate.
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