That round white circle is one of the iPod's design fundamentals that has brought the device into so many households and pockets. More importantly, it's also just about the best darn UI for browsing through massive amounts of media - and isn't that what Front Row is designed to do? I see Front Row as Apple's "iPod for the living room." It is a really, really simple piece of software that wrangles all our content (just like the iPod) together for our viewing and listening pleasure in just about any room we want.
From this perspective, I wonder if Apple dropped the ball on the remote's design. Don't get me wrong, I really like the remote (especially in comparison to its competitors) and I'm excited to one day afford a Mac mini for our living room. I just think it would be so much cooler if we could have a click wheel to control nearly all the media we have on our computers. Apple could easily have made the remote the size of something like the iPod nano which would still give it that "amazingly small" aura, as well as room to fit a click wheel and maybe even save some production costs. A click wheel Front Row remote would make it even easier to browse through the zillions of songs, videos and photos that people can now access from the comforts of their couch. Lastly, I think it would even help Apple to further the iPod brand, as users could now have the same UI on one of their home remotes as they have on the music player in their pockets.
*Sigh* It's too bad Apple didn't give me a call when kicking around ideas for the remote. Maybe I'll get lucky with the 2.0 redesign version some day. Something tells me, however, that I shouldn't hold my breath.