New Release Model: starts with at least in beta quality, milestone releases are RC quality (every 3-6 months), between milestones new features are allowed, GA releases every 12-18 months, no more than 2 releases in active support. There is also MySQL Labs, in where features can make it into a release model, but not necessarily.
Oli’s guess: MySQL 5.6 GA in April 2012 (Collaborate) or June 2012. As a consequence, MySQL 5.0 and MySQL 5.1 will be EOL probably by April this year.
New improvements in partitioning: explicit partition selection, exchanging partitions (good for ETL jobs).
New improvements in InnoDB: InnoDB INFORMATION_SCHEMA has got some new entries. Buffer (INNODB_BUFFER), Fulltext (INNODB_FT), Metrics (INNODB_METRICS), Data Dictionary (INNODB_SYS). The InnoDB Monitor is now obsolete. innodb_purge_threads can be set > 1. Kernel mutex split which should lead to improved concurrency. Persistent optimizer statistics (since InnoDB used to do random dives, so when you do a mysqldump, things can be different) – you can do SET GLOBAL innodb_analyze_is_persistent = 1; (read more: InnoDB Persistent Statistics at last, InnoDB Persistent Statistics Save the Day).
New improvements in optimizer: ORDER by on non-indexed columns, Multi Range Read (MRR), Index Condition Pushdown (ICP), query execution plan for DML statements, Batched Key Access (BKA). There is also optimizer tracing.
There is now some new instrumentations in Performance Schema (introduced in MySQL 5.5). There is also improved replication features, but that will be covered in a later talk.
Fractional seconds (microseconds) is introduced in MySQL 5.6. GET DIAGNOSTICS for stored procedures. Pluggable authentication (socket). memcached/InnoDB still in labs, hasn’t made it to a milestone release. Some 400+ bugs have been fixed. Lots of cleanup’s (old unused variables, commands removed).
Pay attention to MySQL 5.6 incompatible changes when you plan to upgrade.
Probably some good resources: What’s New in MySQL 5.6, MySQL 5.6 (Early Access Features) – InnoDB & Replication.