londrum - 10:23 am on Nov 1, 2010 (gmt 0)
i think the maps must draw heavily on who's signed up to google's business directory, because the relevancy of their results are much, much worse than the serps. it's almost like google hasn't got a deep enough well to draw from.
to take one example, do a search for "new york tourist attractions". the serps are good. they are full of sites that you can imagine people clicking. but the list of pins above the serps contain things like the "new york city police museum", "federal national memorial" and "african burial ground".
these kind of sites would never appear at the top of the normal serps. they have hijacked page 1 because they've signed up to google's places thing.