I think this sounds like a good idea and seems to be what happens in commercial software. When a major update comes out, the features don't change during its lifecycle but problems are fixed. I'm sure the same thing happens during such software's development cycle.
I'm also in favor of a DVCS. To throw my vote in, I suggest Mercurial. It's nicely cross-platform and easy to install on multiple platforms (Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux). It can even be installed on shared hosting. I know that's likely to be a big debate and at this point, any choice could alienate and aggravate people.
I've been maintaining a Drupal repository in Mercurial since sometime in the Drupal 5 cycle, and have a repo tracking Drupal 6 releases on Bitbucket.org.
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