Android is moving 'into a new regular maintenance schedule over the coming quarters.'
Now that Android 7.0 Nougat has been released we're starting to hear the first details on what's next for Google's OS. In a post on the Android Developers blog, Engineering VP Dave Burke lays out what's next for Nougat.
We're moving Nougat into a new regular maintenance schedule over the coming quarters. In fact, we've already started work on the first Nougat maintenance release, that will bring continued refinements and polish, and we're planning to bring that to you this fall as a developer preview. Stay tuned!
So it appears that the Android Beta Program will live on, though the nuts and bolts of how devices will get back on the dev. preview channel (from the current stable Nougat release) aren't entirely clear right now.
The timing suggests the first Nougat MR (maintenance release) could land around the same time as the widely rumored HTC-built 2016 Nexus phones. Indeed, one build.prop leak from the smaller of the two phones identifies "Android NMR1" (Nougat MR1). (A maintenance release is not to be confused with Android's separate monthly security patches, which operate independently.)
The quarterly maintenance release cycle is also a big change for Android, raising the possibility of a 7.1 release before the year's end, and maybe a 7.2 or 7.3 early in 2017. That's going to put pressure on phone manufacturers and carriers, most of whom are already struggling to cope with Android's yearly updates.