This coming week may turn out to be a dream for us nerdy types. The MacWorld Expo, an annual event held every January, kicks off Tuesday with a keynote address by Apple VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller. While MacWorld is a traditional launching-pad for new, spiffy Apple products, this year comes with an unexpected shadow overhead: this will be Apple’s last year as a participant at MacWorld, and the keynote will be given by Schiller instead of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. This, essentially, means the end of the conference; what is MacWorld without Apple’s participation?

But I, being a bit of an oddball, am not focused on Apple this week. I’m less enamored with Apple than I used to be for a number of reasons that I’ll get into later (and a few I’ve gotten into before), and I have my eye on one other potentially-groundbreaking announcement scheduled for this week.

Palm, maker of Treo and Centro smartphones running the ancient-but-user-friendly Palm OS ‘Garnet’ or modern-but-giant-kludge Windows Mobile, is on the verge of a make-or-break announcement: the long-awaited, Linux-based mobile operating system code-named ‘Nova’ and devices to run it. Announcements of ‘Nova’ and its supporting hardware are expected at the CES trade show on Thursday.

Ever since I bought my first Palm OS device, a Handspring Visor Pro PDA in 2002, I’ve loved Palm OS. It has its flaws, and it is definitely showing its age—millennia in computer terms—but it is simple, friendly, and functional. I bit-the-bullet and bought a BlackBerry in November, which I do like very much so far, but I’m still really rooting for Palm to regain its former glory. I could go on-and-on about how they got where they are today—an also-ran in the very industry they created—but that doesn’t matter now. Palm has to hit a home-run on Thursday if it expects to survive.

I hope it does.